After the Aix tour, I thought I had packed away my blogging shoes (sparkly of course) forever, but today I have been persuaded by LSO blogger extraordinaire Gareth, that even though he has already composed a blog for this trip, it might be interesting to see the same trip from a different perspective. Is the perspective of someone who wears minus 11 contact lenses really wise? Well, here goes …
Being the first tour since the mammoth five weeks in Aix it felt quite strange to be armed with a tiny case (size of my Aix make-up bag) for one night in Villach and two nights in Vienna. Annoyingly I had looked at the weather forecast a bit too early and therefore had packed summery outfits and sandals for what has turned out to be a very rainy weekend. Thank goodness I had my trusty brolly with me, a true Brit! This surely qualified me for the invite Gareth and I received to attend the British embassy in Vienna for a filmed interview as part of their promoting Britain in Austria campaign. I think Gareth was invited because he is one of the principal flutes, a published author and a very eloquent speaker. I think I was asked because I ticked these boxes:
1) Will make the effort with her appearance early in the morning
2) British and ethnic if possible
3) A bit of sparkle for the camera
It was all very lavish in the Embassy and we admired the artwork as we took the grand tour. The ambassador’s son (sadly minus the ubiquitous tray of Ferrero Rocher) joined us for a chat and said what we were seeing on that floor were the very pristine and grand quarters that were not really lived in and were purely for entertaining guests. I admit it was pretty hard to imagine them lounging around watching Britain’s Got Talent on the perfect cream sofas surrounded by antiques. I hope they have some beanbags upstairs and eat TV dinners off their laps in comfort.
I think we managed to answer all the questions about the LSO, life in Britain, the 2012 Olympics, visiting Austria, Star Wars etc. without offending or causing an international incident. Certainly Mario, who was within our eye shot, never made any frantic “slicing his throat” gestures in our direction. I came a cropper though when asked what I missed most about Britain when on tour. True Maxine style I thought of my stomach and immediately replied, “fish and chips!” Gareth’s response , “My wife and kids … And a cup of tea.” Gareth one, Maxine zero.
The concert tonight was again moved indoors due to rain and featured two violin titans on stage. No, not a double concerto … one was on the podium! Nikolaj Znaider, who we often work with as a soloist and increasingly more as a maestro, was conducting the wonderful Frank-Peter Zimmerman in Brahms’ Concerto. This was sublime playing from the mild-mannered virtuoso and a beautiful heart-wrenching oboe solo from guest principal Gordon Hunt. I wondered what it must be like for Znaider to know this concerto inside out, perhaps even to have performed it in the last few weeks and yet be shaping the music silently rather than being the central figure.
We have been treated to wonderful encores this trip, two fantastic ones from the stunning Khatia Buniatishvili last night and some awe-inspiring Bach tonight. We can never begrudge soloists from performing encores, although last night it was 11pm (on a Sunday) by the time we arrived back in Vienna from Grafenegg. Groups of LSO players were prowling en masse along the streets like wild hungry animals. After trying to find some hearty German cuisine in three places that were ominously dark and locked, we ended up in the very lowest of the low … A “Scottish” fast food outlet with Golden Arches. I have an idea to start a chain of good restaurants that only open from 10pm ’til late and are located within 2 mins walk of all concert halls.
We fly back home tomorrow and into Abbey Road studios for the next few days. I’m glad to only have a small case to lug home, something tells me that after that fish and chips remark, I won’t be met with flowers at Heathrow…