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 that's a subjective experience, another person can have a completely different response to the same music. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm learning to trust that sense, and for me our first Mahler concerts absolutely had that special energy. As far as the critics go, of course it's always nice to get a good review, especially if you feel it's warranted. I, too, was shocked at the one particularly negative review we got. It went beyond a respectful criticism of the performance and was almost hateful in its tone.

So, one Mahler symphony down, 9 to go...on Saturday we started rehearsing Mahler's Second Symphony, 'The Resurrection'. We've had a couple of days off from Mahler, but the Philharmonia never rests - we've been at Air Studios doing recording sessions, and also playing for the Allianz Conductors' Academy on Friday at the Royal College of Music. This was a chance for three young conductors to read through some pieces with the orchestra, and be critiqued by Maestro Maazel. A great (and possibly scary!) opportunity for them, and also really interesting for the orchestra. It was a rare chance to hear Maazel talk about the nuts and bolts of his craft, of which he holds an undisputed technical mastery.

But back to Mahler...his Second Symphony is one of my personal favourites, and represents a massive leap in scale and scope from his First, great as it is. For the Second, Mahler employs not only a massive orchestra, but chorus and soloists as well. Also programmatically, if the first symphony deals with an individual's struggle to transcend suffering, the second deals with the fundamental questions of life's meaning, death, and possible life after death. When the great conductor Hans von B├╝low heard the first movement, he declared that Wagner's Tristan was a Haydn symphony compared to this piece! Big words from the guy who conducted the first performances of Tristan!

Sunday night, it's time for the show, and a sold-out Royal Festival Hall is packed to the rafters... it's also a special night for me, my parents have flown in all the way from San Francisco to catch this concert and spend a week with us in London. What better way to show them what our life here is all about! As the concert ends and we take our bows, I try to let it all sink in... so many inspiring moments from my colleagues tonight. I could go on and on but words really fail at some point. Maazel's Mahler 2 is on the grandest of scales, and this was a truly epic reading. I'm grateful to be a part of it.