Wednesday, 28 September 2011

London Symphony Orchestra; tested to the limit

If I were a concert pianist I’d definitely have floppy hair. It's crucial for adding drama. During the energetic parts, when you're really putting your back into it, the hair flies all over the place; which looks great. The brilliant young pianist Daniil Trifonov is clearly in agreement with me; his is perfect. I saw Trifonov recently playing Tchaikovsky with the London Symphony Orchestra at a brand new venue in Guildford. 
The hair, I could do; it’s the genius piano playing I might struggle with.  What I could do, however is the cymbals. Now there’s an instrument I could master to the standard required of the London Symphony Orchestra. 
 As I sat listening and watching this magnificent orchestra I couldn’t help noticing that the whole team were working hard, except one.  The conductor was flapping furiously, the violins were working up a sweat, the pianist nearly falling off his stool with activity and then there was the guy at the back with the cymbals.  Every now and again he’d drag himself off his stool, take the cymbals off their stand and bash them together on cue. Then he’d sit down again for another 10 minutes. I reckon I could do that.  
You could imagine him at dinner parities couldn’t you... “Oh you’re a musician with the London Symphony Orchestra, how marvellous” and then they’d ask the killer question “what instrument do you play?”.... Ah.
Despite my obsession with the cymbals guy the music was quite incredible, the pianist looked completely at one with his instrument almost not aware of his surroundings with his eyes rolled, just showing the whites.  Which was just as well because right at the part of a particularly dramatic crescendo all the lights in the concert hall went out plunging us all into total darkness. The musicians couldn’t see their music or the conductor and yet they didn’t miss a single note.
Was this supposed to happen? No.  I had to fight hard to resist the urge to shout out... “never mind a doctor, is there an electrician in the house?”  There was at least 5 agonising minutes of music in the dark before the first light appeared on stage. One of the lady violinists somehow produced a small clip on light to illuminate the music in front of her.  Quite where she was keeping it in that dress is a mystery. Then there was the unmistakeable scuffling sound of stage hands squeezing past musicians carrying whatever lights they could muster from backstage.
I don’t know how they managed it but they continued to play out the first movement until the interval.  At which point the audience roared with admiration for the sheer professionalism of the musicians.
Trifonov however then decided to do a ‘Cliff Richard’ and started up an impromptu recital to entertain the audience who were all still sitting in the dark.  If it had been me, I’d have chosen something easy, but no.  So again without music or light he played a brilliant rendition of Listz’s minute waltz.  Not a single soul left the auditorium to rush to the bar; they were all transfixed by this brilliant 20 year old pianist playing in the dark.
The gremlins however were not ready to give up just yet.  When finally we all shuffled into the bar for a drink, the lights went out in the whole building amid screams of panic.  Why do people scream when lights go out? Luckily, this being middle class Guildford there was no looting.
Up to this point the ‘management’ had been very quiet, so no-one knew what was going on.  Were we under attack from extremists? or had they simply not paid their electricity bill?
Eventually there was a quick explanation but the second half of the concert was carried out with the house lights on rather than the stage lights, which wasn’t quite as atmospheric.  At this point I was rather glad my tickets had been free press tickets.  Had I paid the £41 ticket cost I might have been a bit irked.
At the end of the concert the management however, pulled out their trump card to smooth any ruffled feathers and announced there was a complimentary drink in the bar for everyone after the performance. Nothing like a free drink hey, everyone has their price.

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