We wish you a Szymanowski

By | December 17, 2012 at 10:42 am | 6 comments | LSO On Tour, Luxembourg/Paris December 2012 | Tags: , , , ,

As it’s nearly Christmas, you’ll forgive me if I jettison my normal dry academic precision for a little bit of end of term amusement. I am pleased to report that the LSC were staying in a different hotel from the orchestra in a another part of Paris which rendered my trainers unnecessary for the bar scrum. In fact, apart from sharing a restaurant with the bass section Christmas party, there was no impediment to my post concert consumption last night. The threat of Simon Halsey had been neutralised. For now.

Brian does a Christmas present impression.

The LSC joined us last night again for a performance of Szymanowski 3 which also featured the inspirational Toby Spence. It was deeply satisfying to see one of our greatest young singers return in such wonderful form after only a very short time ago facing up to thyroid cancer. The part he has in the symphony is relatively small in the grand scheme of things, but he makes a massive impact, rising slowly from his chair as the orchestra reaches a hiatus and waiting for almost total silence before making his first entry. It is a awesome moment in many ways.

You can sense the warmth towards him from the choir in particular, but then they are a nice bunch of people obviously having a great time on tour! In fact so nice are they, that one of their number arrived at the airport at the weekend only to realise she had made the oldest mistake in the book of touring – she had left her passport at home. Now, we happen to be friends on twitter and so I followed her progress online as she realised that she wouldn’t be able to get home, retrieve her passport and then get back in time for her flight. She went home and accepted her fate and planned a very different weekend. Now I don’t know exactly what transpired, maybe she can tell us, but later on that day, she was all of a sudden at the airport and then shortly afterwards was in Luxembourg in time for rehearsal and concert. If you don’t know, the chorus don’t get paid the vast sums of money we do in the orchestra (irony alert), they are amateurs in the true sense of the word and spend time and money to perform with us frequently making trips as far afield as New York city. It is therefore no small feat to transport yourself across Europe simply to sing in a twenty minute symphony at your own expense. I later found out that her colleagues, on hearing of her plight, all chipped in to pay for her flight. Isn’t that nice? Almost as satisfying as sitting down to watch A Wonderful Life with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie.

It has been an extraordinary year for the orchestra in 2012. It already seems like a lifetime ago, but back in May we were performing for over 10,000 people in Trafalgar Square. Those unbelievable figures were dwarfed later on in the summer when we performed at the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics to a completely unbelievable 4 billion. Who on earth counts these things? Is there a company that does it? Do they average out the number of television sets sold and multiply it by the average family size? Or maybe like 50% of all statistics, they are made up. Whatever, a lot of people watched it. I know the cultural impact it made because I can now use the Olympics to explain to people what I do. When I first joined the orchestra, if I told somebody that I was in the LSO and was met with a blank look, I simply had to explain that we played in Star Wars and instantly they were able to place me. This gradually became overtaken by Harry Potter in recent years, but now all I have to do is explain that we played with Mr Bean at the Olympics and everyone is happy. The only exception to this rule is when sitting in the back of a black cab, as they all still recognise the LSO from the Morecombe and Wise 1971 Christmas special and will happily recite the whole sketch verbatim. I love those journeys. Anyway, I digress as usual.

LSO Horn section posing in Paris

We aren’t playing any Christmas concerts, although there is a fair smattering of glockenspiel in the Szymanowski if you listen hard, but although lacking in seasonal content, there is still an end of term feeling about the place. We have now finished the last tour of the year and the two concerts this week in London are the last thing for us before Christmas. We have a relatively slow start to the touring year in 2013, so you won’t hear from me for a while, but I am very much looking forward to Bruckner with Haitink in the far east. You will of course hear from me then. In the mean time, I’ll see if I can persuade Denis Matsuev to play jingle bells as an encore, he seems like he has a good sense of humour and it is nearly Christmas.

The halls are being decked, mulled wine is simmering, players are deciding which lucky relative is going to get their complimentary LSO Live cds in their stocking this year (Promotional item , not for resale) and the spirit of good will to all men is flooding through LSO Towers. Even Sharon is talking to conductors. I blame the gluhwein.

He’s got some explaining to do

Now I’m off to find some cocktail sticks for the Christmas party tonight.

A happy and healthy Christmas to you all.


  1. klari (2 years ago)

    “like 50% of all statistics, they are made up”

    In one word : ❤ ❤ ❤ !

  2. Elizabeth Owen (2 years ago)

    Very sorry to read on Norman Lebrecht’s site that Valery Gergiev will not be chief conductor after 2015. He has done some exciting work with the LSO and will be missed.

    • Jo Johnson (2 years ago)

      Hi Elizabeth – don’t worry, Valery will still conduct with the LSO after 2015, just not with the title of Principal Conductor. We have plenty planned with him and he won’t vanish from London.

  3. Michael Schaffer (2 years ago)

    Isn’t that Radovan Vlatkovic on the far right in the horn picture? Is he playing with the LSO now?

    • Gareth Davies (2 years ago)

      It is. He was guest principal during the Szymanowski period of work.

      • Michael Schaffer (2 years ago)

        Awesome – having gone to many concerts in Berlin in the 80s, I still vividly remember Vlatkovic’s playing in the RSO (now DSO) Berlin).


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