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 been no lack of promotion for this concert...at the gate in Heathrow Lulu picked up a copy of the Sing Tao Daily, a major Hong Kong newspaper, and right away spotted a full-page ad for our concert. Then upon arrival we saw another big poster in the Kowloon train station - it's nice to get such a warm welcome from our Hong Kong promoters!

After taking the train into town from the airport, we caught a shuttle bus to our hotel that was driven by a man who seemed to take the narrow Kowloon streets as his personal Formula 1 racecourse! All the more impressive considering the large and ungainly bus that he was saddled behind the wheel of. As I stepped off the bus and said a quiet prayer of gratitude for arriving in one piece, it also struck me that our driver's wild careering captured something about the manic energy of this place. Hong Kong is one the unique cities of the world, one of the places where East and West have met for generations. Although the vast majority of the population is Chinese, you can still feel faint traces of the colonial British influence which, for an Asian city, makes everything a bit more accessible for all of us English-speaking folks from the Philharmonia! It's also one of the most densely populated...to me Hong Kong feels like they've taken all the energy of Manhattan, bottled it up and stuffed it into a place about half the size. And when they ran out of space, they just went straight up! This makes for a spectacular skyline set dramatically on Victoria Harbour.

Hong Kong is open for business 24/7, and I love that you can pop out of the hotel at any hour and find some delicious Chinese food in the legions of restaurants, many of which look very unassuming. It's always best to find one filled with locals! It also means just about every square inch has been covered with shops and markets filled with bobbles that attract all tastes from the most humble to the most expensive. Walking through this labyrinth of hyper-capitalism begins to numb the senses after a few hours!

But I digress...Saturday is our first show, and we'll be bringing back some of the big hits from our Mahler cycle of last year. Tomorrow it's going to be Mahler's First Symphony, and I'm looking forward to returning to the beginning of Mahler's symphonies with the whole cycle now under our belts. Stay tuned in for the next installment of our blog featuring rookie blogger Richard from the cello section!