New York City – it’s one of those places where you never know who you might bump into. Within two days I’ve eaten dinner seated a table away from Ali Larter of Heroes fame and bumped into violin soloist Cho-Liang Lin, who kindly consented to having his photo taken with this groupie in her new hat. (To be honest he looks so happy because I saved him from a long conversation he was having with a very strange man before I interjected.)
In previous years I have seen Yo-Yo Ma hurrying along the street, cello on his back, swooned at the sight of a statuesque Ted Danson in the lobby of the Parker Meridien Hotel, but none of these compare to a now legendary incident with my friend Sylvain in a cafe near Carnegie Hall. I realised for a second, as we were happily munching away, that Sylv’s attention was taken away from his food (a rare feat), as he looked up agog and with a force and pitch usually reserved for (I guess) ‘Beliebers’, squealed, ‘It’s Michael Moooooore!!’ Now I’ve never seen anyone move away so fast. You would have thought Charlton Heston was after him. I heard from Matt Gibson that this weekend alone he has bumped into pianist Stephen Hough and tenor Ian Bostridge, who we only recently worked with in Aix and at the Proms this Summer. New York … you never know who might be around the next corner.
I had treated myself to an extra two days here in order to soak up the atmosphere and culture (aka shopping) so I felt pretty refreshed, and dare I say smug, when my colleagues showed up at the hotel on Friday night. Judging by Facebook’s food porn shots, my gang is not the only one to have first night eatery traditions here. We always head to the famous Carnegie Deli where the portions would satisfy even the largest of appetites (and pickles, strangely, seem to come with everything). I saw colleagues attempting to stave off jet lag, happily heading off in packs to favoured burger joints and steakhouses.
I was pretty amazed at how fresh the orchestra looked come rehearsal time on Sunday. I think people were perhaps solar-charged in this beautiful mild weather. An afternoon concert can lack atmosphere and I feared with the programming of Shostakovich 4, the audience might not feel particularly uplifted after a heavy Sunday lunch. However, there were only two mobile phone interruptions (from the audience I might add, although there was one during the rehearsal from the basses) and they were far more attentive to this meandering symphony than I had given them credit for. Haitink, a maestro who next year will celebrate his 85th birthday, always amazes me with his minimalist gestures that almost invite you, rather than tell you to play. There is no other maestro like him and I have to say, how many octogenarians do you know who can stand through these hugely long Shostakovich symphonies? It can be tiring even sitting playing the things!!
We were treated in the first half to a Mozart piano concerto played beautifully by Manny Ax, a lovely man and great friend of the orchestra. He always finds time to chat to players and just spreads the infectious good nature wherever he goes. I spied him at the post-concert reception carrying heavy trays of canapés over to the table where Mr and Mrs Haitink sat. I did a double take and he stopped, thinking the cheesy bites had caught my eye (rather than the somewhat overqualified ‘waiter’) and invited me to help myself!
As Lennie thanked Haitink on behalf of the orchestra for a very enjoyable ten day project, the maestro in turn said, ‘Thank you … I love working with you, the LSO is like … a wall. One that I can lean on and yes … a very loud one!’ I do love Haitink’s quips. Last week at the Barbican we didn’t have full stage lighting at the start of the rehearsal but he picked up his baton and said, ‘Well, I guess this will be rather like a blind date’.
I end this installment with a little plug for my fellow blogger Gareth’s book, The Show Must Go On. It’s impossible to be here in NY and not think of the history the LSO has had in this amazing place. The book is a fantastic account in a player’s words from their first tour to the USA a century ago coupled with blogs from touring life now. It’s a right riveting read and can now be bought on both sides of the Atlantic, so if you haven’t read it yet, shame on you, go and buy one NOW!
Since I just mentioned links to the past, I’ll end with something Gareth picked up for me last week at London’s Imperial War Museum. Not quite sure what it has to do with me though …