Mahler Series 2011

Mike Fuller (double bass) and Richard Birchall (cello) take us behind the scenes on the Orchestra's tour to the Far East with Maestro Lorin Maazel.

08 April 2012

Soong Choo writes: After a gentle stroll around central Seoul I took a smaller group to a Buddhist Temple food restaurant and had a feast. Made me think it wouldn't be a bad thing being a monk, but then I do like my meat so maybe not.

Read more

07 April 2012

Soong Choo writes: We are flying to Seoul today. Got up and felt really good this morning, slept six hours straight for the first time in days. Finally beat the jet lag (hope I haven't spoken too early), which is just as well as I am really looking forward to Seoul for many many reasons but above all, it's the food if truth be told.

Read more

06 April 2012

Michael Fuller writes: Yes, Richard, I have also often contemplated the mysterious power of "the handbag", an item that to us men seems to only serve the practical purpose of carrying things around from point "A" to point "B" but to women around the world seems to have acquired an almost-mystical power. Yet however much I ponder this phenomenon (particularly after an exhausting day being dragged...

Read more

05 April 2012

Richard Birchall writes: For those of us without Chinese wives, this week so far has been one long and very entertaining game of charades; on European tours it's usually possible to dredge up some long-lost vocabulary from the hazy memories of school and muddle through (often receiving a condescending smile or weary sigh and a response in English), but here the language (and alphabet) barrier is...

Read more

03 April 2012

Michael Fuller writes: We're off to Shanghai today from Guangzhou, and I have to give special props to my lovely wife Lulu and her peerless Mandarin speaking skills. After a major foul-up at the check-in desk in Guangzhou, where the flight was overbooked, boarding passes were assigned to the wrong people, and passports temporarily disappeared, Lulu was the only one able to communicate with all the...

Read more

01 April 2012

Richard Birchall writes: Thanks Mike! I'm delighted to join the blogging team, and glad the lower strings are now in charge...! To pick up where we left off: our first concert of the tour was on Saturday afternoon at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre (the main arts and performance venue for the island), and we were greeted by a full house - always a good way to start! The programme of Haydn's C...

Read more

30 March 2012

Michael Fuller writes: We've just arrived in Hong Kong to kick off our Far East Tour with Lorin Maazel. Over the next 10 days we'll be playing here as well as Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing and Seoul, Korea. My wife Lulu (in our first violin section) and I have arrived a couple of days early to enjoy some extra time in this most vibrant of cities before our concert on Saturday. It seems there's certainly...

Read more

10 October 2011

Michael Fuller writes: Last night was the final concert in our Mahler cycle with Lorin Maazel, and we finished it in grand fashion, with Mahler's colossal Eighth symphony. It is surely Mahler's most ambitious work, and the promoter for the premiere in 1910 coined the term 'Symphony of a Thousand' due to the massive forces involved- 8 vocal soloists, 2 mixed choirs, 1 children's choir, and an orchestra...

Read more

03 October 2011

Simon Oliver writes: Mahler's Ninth Symphony is not normally linked to feelings of joy and happiness. After our performance on Saturday night however, I found myself very joyful indeed. On cloud nine even. Earlier in the evening on the Royal Festival Hall stage while looking around the orchestra during the performance, I had been profoundly inspired at the commitment shown on each of the Philharmonia's...

Read more

29 September 2011

Michael Fuller writes: After kicking off our London concert season on Sunday, we're ready to dig in to the final concerts of our Mahler cycle with Maestro Maazel. It was good to see the Maestro on the podium again last night in rehearsal after our marathon patch of work this past Spring. We played a rocking Mahler 6 concert in Turin, Italy, in early September, but besides that we haven't worked...

Read more

29 May 2011

Michael Fuller writes: This weekend we travelled into the north country for the final two concerts in this first part of our Mahler cycle with Maestro Maazel. It has all gone by so quickly, yet our concert in Manchester seems like such a long time ago! In the seven weeks since our first rehearsal we've performed 7 symphonies in 25 concerts in 16 cities across the UK, Germany, France and Luxembourg....

Read more

27 May 2011

Simon Oliver writes: The last concert on our tour of Europe was a triumph. It was one of the best performances of Mahler's Fifth Symphony I've done. Everything seemed to be right. The concert hall in Essen had a wonderful acoustic and it was full to the rafters! The orchestra had a free afternoon so was well rested, and it was the last performance of the tour which gave it a true sense of occasion....

Read more

23 May 2011

Michael Fuller writes: Today is the final day of our German tour...over the weekend we've been crisscrossing up and down the country, going from Stuttgart to Bremen to Mannheim and finally to Essen. Those who have a knowledge of German geography will realize that these cities are all in very different parts of the country! Planning tours like this is extremely complicated logistically, and trying...

Read more

19 May 2011

Michael Fuller writes: Last night we performed Mahler's First Symphony in Bonn to a packed audience at the Beethovenhalle. The concert was being filmed for later broadcast on German TV, so there were cameramen and crew members crawling all over the place! It was also a special occasion because yesterday it was the hundredth anniversary of Mahler's death. While counting bars of rests during the concert...

Read more

18 May 2011

Simon Oliver writes: It was a fairly small stage last night. The concert hall in Hamburg is a beautiful one, but not that spacious for us basses. The positioning of some instruments in a symphony orchestra is a topic much discussed at the moment. What can prove to be difficult on some occasions, is to find yourself up really close to loud instruments in such massive works, such as last night's Mahler...

Read more

17 May 2011

Michael Fuller writes: It was so good to come back home to London on Sunday night and have a day to recharge before heading off on tour again. But all those nice feelings evaporated when my alarm went off at 4:30 this morning and I realized how long it would be before we have another day off!

Read more

16 May 2011

Simon Oliver writes: We have just got back from Paris! The first part of the trip has been a great success all round and we now have one day to rest before we fly out to Germany on Tuesday. Paris was lovely but, my word, really expensive! I had an apple juice in a cafe not far from the concert hall and it cost me 9 euros! What's that about?

Read more

13 May 2011

Michael Fuller writes: Next stop on our tour is Paris, so this morning we're taking the train from Luxembourg after a nice two-day stint here. Having more than one day in any city is a luxury for the Philharmonia on tour and three days in Paris is even better! What's more typical is what we'll doing in Germany next week, which is seven concerts in seven days in seven different cities. But no need...

Read more

12 May 2011

Simon Oliver writes: It's very early in the morning. To be honest, it's 2:40am! A couple of hours ago we ended our first concert on this tour and I'm pleased to report it went really well. Nothing is more satisfying for us than ending a concert with an audience giving a standing ovation and this is exactly how they responded to our performance of Mahler's Sixth Symphony tonight.

Read more

11 May 2011

Michael Fuller writes: We're off on tour today, so that means up at 6:30, catching the train from London Bridge station down to Gatwick Airport for a charter flight to Luxembourg. After grabbing a double sausage McMuffin in a slightly guilt-ridden homage to my American roots, it's a short flight to the Continent (fortunately for my legs). Then we'll have a little time this afternoon for lunch and...

Read more

09 May 2011

Simon Oliver writes: Last night we performed Mahler's Symphony No. 3. Being the only work in the programme, the performance started at around 7.30pm and ended at 9.30pm, with no interval! What a phenomenal work it is and all the forces involved, Maestro Maazel, the Philharmonia, the mezzo soprano Sarah Connolly, the Philharmonia Voices and the Tiffin Boys Choir, gave a monumental performance! I...

Read more

06 May 2011

Michael Fuller writes: When I got home from playing Mahler's Fifth last night in the Royal Festival Hall, I was still charged with energy after playing this incredible music. I thought there was a lot of spontaneity that Maestro Maazel brought to the performance tonight, taking time in certain places that he hadn't done before. There were some spots in the third movement where he got the strings...

Read more

04 May 2011

Simon Oliver writes: Today we are performing Mahler's Fifth Symphony in the newly-refurbished Butterworth Hall at the Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry. For the Philharmonia it's very important we travel around the country, bringing our world-class conductors to people who can't get to hear us at the Royal Festival Hall. We have residencies in Basingstoke, Bedford, Leicester and, from November this...

Read more

03 May 2011

Michael Fuller writes: In the last week we made a huge shift from the dark psychological landscape of the Sixth Symphony to the child-like naiveté of the Fourth. There's such a strong contrast between those two pieces, but what's amazing is that they are both completely Mahler. His voice comes through so clearly in both symphonies, even though the content is worlds apart. I guess that's one of...

Read more

27 April 2011

Simon Oliver writes: We are on the road again, this time it's off to Bristol playing Mahler Symphony No. 4 at Colston Hall. In the car for the journey, again driven by Matt Gibson (thanks Matt!), is bass player Gareth Sheppard who joined the Philharmonia back in 2009. I thought I'd ask him a few questions on how he is finding his new life in the Orchestra.....

Read more

21 April 2011

Mike Fuller writes: Today we hopped on the train down to Basingstoke, one of our UK residencies, for a repeat performance of Mahler's Sixth Symphony. I really enjoyed tonight's performance, and I thought we played with even more abandon than we did on Tuesday in the Royal Festival Hall. One of the reviews from that concert said that in the final movement "the orchestra produced a sound of almost...

Read more

20 April 2011

Simon Oliver writes: What a couple of days it's been!

Read more

19 April 2011

Mike Fuller writes: It's the hottest day of the year so far in London, brilliant sunshine, bright blue skies, just a perfect day. What could be better then playing Mahler's Sixth Symphony, possibly his darkest, most tortured work! Ok, so maybe the weather and today's concert isn't a perfect match, but once the concert starts, we're hoping to create the right atmosphere so the...

Read more

18 April 2011

Mike Fuller writes: I agree wholeheartedly with your last post, Simon. The more I gain experience, I realise that there is something in me that 'knows' when we've done a great performance. It's some combination of my mind judging what is happening as we play (such as whether a particular passage was in tune or together) and also my emotional response to the music that's all around me. Now of course...

Read more

15 April 2011

Simon Oliver writes: After reading some critics' responses after our performances of Mahler's First Symphony this week, it reminds me how personal a live concert can be. The result, one reviewer gives a performance a five-star rating and another has the opposite opinion! Fair enough, but what bothers me is the inaccuracies. For the concert on Tuesday, one reviewer stated that two of our principal...

Read more

13 April 2011

Mike Fuller writes: Before the concert I walk down to the Festival Hall lobby and there is a special buzz in the air. The terrace is packed with people enjoying the sun and a fantastic view of the Thames, anticipating the first London concert of the Philharmonia's Mahler cycle. Backstage the orchestra is focused- every concert is important, but tonight you can really sense that everyone wants...

Read more

12 April 2011

Simon Oliver writes: What an opening concert!

Read more

11 April 2011

Simon Oliver writes: Last night we had our first rehearsal with Maestro Lorin Maazel and it showed just how great this Mahler symphony cycle is going to be! Instant connection between the maestro and the orchestra with some great music making from the opening bars. He is very clear and precise in what he wants and is a superb communicator.

Read more