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.

Our concerts in Gateshead and Hull were not without incident... Upon arrival at King's Cross station on Saturday morning I thought it seemed unusually crowded in the main hall. We had booked a direct train up to Newcastle that would arrive mid-afternoon in plenty of time for a short rehearsal and then the concert. As I got my ticket I heard the announcement: "Due to overhead damage all East Coast trains to the following destinations will be cancelled..." Oh boy, here we go, I thought to myself. We quickly spotted some fellow Philharmonians in the station, and together headed across the street to St Pancras, where our tickets would be accepted on an alternate route. St Pancras station was slammed with people as well, and we found ourselves pressed up against the ticket gates as we waited for a platform announcement for the train we were hoping to catch. Amazing how one train line going down can cause utter chaos on the whole system! After fighting through crowds we finally managed to get on a train But instead of the direct train to Newcastle which would take about 3 hours, our merry (and sometimes not-so-merry) band of travellers made our way from London to Sheffield, then to Doncaster, then finally to Newcastle arriving at about 6:40pm, about 8 hours after leaving home. We were lucky even to get seats as all of the trains were completely jammed with people standing in the aisles the whole way.

It was a relief to get The Sage, the beautiful concert hall in Gateshead overlooking the Tyne River, and miraculously every member of the orchestra had made it (either by hopping from train to train or by driving)! I have to say, even after all that travel madness, I still enjoyed playing Mahler's Fifth, and the Orchestra sounded as great as ever! The next day we made our way to Hull, which was thankfully a smooth and uneventful journey, and did our final show in this patch, with an encore performance of Mahler 5.

What a tremendous journey this has been, both musically and physically, and it's still not over! We'll be back in October to continue this monumental series of concerts. I can say now from the comfort of my sofa at home that I am both exhausted and fulfilled. It's been such a massive effort on everyone's part to make this all happen, so I want to give a huge thanks to all in the Philharmonia office and the staff that travels with us and makes sure our instruments, music and anything else we might need gets there before we do! And of course to Maestro Maazel, who has led the way with his insight into Mahler's music, and his command of the Orchestra. It is truly a privilege to play this music with one of the great conductors of our time, and this Mahler cycle will go down for me as one of my greatest musical experiences.