“Is there a park nearby?” I enquire in faultless French. “I want to go running.”
“Yes of course, sir.”
The man on the desk spins around and produces a map which he marks a series of lines, circles and arrows on. I study the map because that is what one does when given a map with squiggles on.
“So…I go out of the door here and turn left and…”
“It is straight across the road.”
“Right. Over the road.”
“Yes sir, but…sir,” he looks over both shoulders in a conspiratorial manner that only people on concierge desks can do.
“You know we have fitness centre within the hotel?”
“Er, yes I do, but I want to go running.”
“But sir…” he glances shiftily from left to right, “We also have the latest running machines.”
“I’m sure you do, but I want to go running outside. In the fresh air.”
I find myself doing that, I like fresh air mime that people do when talking about hiking and mountains. Sort of like the upside down Mobot at waist level whilst simultaneously breathing in through the nostrils very loudly. Try it now and you’ll know what I mean.
The concierge looks at me like I’m mad. He may have a point.
“Well sir, if that’s what you want.”
As I turn around with a redundant map in my hand and a day-glow orange running shirt on, there is a queue of people checking in for the stress management conference which is taking place in the hotel. They all look a little uptight to be honest. As I pound the pavements of Luxembourg until I reach the park across the road which takes approximately one minute, I wonder why he wanted me to use the gym so much. Is it so fabulous that I really can’t leave without having sampled its treadmill, or is there something more sinister that he can’t mention. Why doesn’t he want me to go outside? Is there something in the park?
It’s probably a coincidence, but there is a school in the park and unfortunately my morning run coincided with a class of 12 year olds on their cross country run. I found myself running surrounded by small children. When I say surrounded, I actually mean being overtaken at great speed. As I ran back to the hotel slightly deflated, I told myself that my fitness regime was all about stamina and not sprinting which was obviously what the 12 year olds were training for. How I laughed at their youthful enthusiasm which would surely burn out well before my slow plod. Oh yes, I was the tortoise to their rabbits. As I glided as gracefully as I could into the foyer the concierge raised an eyebrow which said in a flick, I told you so/bet you wish you’d gone to our nice gym/the kids always go running at this time of the day.
I had a coffee.
Stamina is something which is becoming increasingly important in the life of the orchestra. We have had a busy few weeks and already it appears to be October. I have no idea where September went. Having just left Paris we are now en route to the Barbican on the 11th via Luxembourg and Frankfurt. Playing more Szymanowksi and Brahms needs the stamina of the long distance runner if not the loneliness; solitude on tour with the LSO is a difficult thing to find at times. If the strain of playing constantly is a constant battle, boredom with the repertoire isn’t particularly something to worry about. Since we last played these pieces we’ve been on tour with MTT and done a film soundtrack (out in November, no I can’t tell you what it is) as well as the Donatella Flick conducting competition, an opera gala and two concerts in the Barbican. In many ways, coming back to this music after playing so much other stuff is a new experience and yet familiar. Brahms of course is always familiar although with Valery, no two performances are ever the same. With the Szymanowksi and the unfamiliar first and second symphonies, it feels like a (arts marketing speak alert) journey. Having listened to both of them several times and played the third and fourth I can’t help feeling that the style of music developed considerably over time. Hardly a surprise, but knowing that he withdrew the first symphony and referred to it as a monster makes me listen to it differently. The music is often overwhelming in its romantic intensity with little room for too much light and shade. It’s a nice sound and the lush orchestration certainly brings out the full richness of the LSO, but much like those 12 year old sprinters, there are times when I wish he would take his time and enjoy the view a little more.
If you want to find out more about Szymanowski, you can visit the app store and download an app for iPad etc here