Blog

Latin America Tour / 22 September 2014

It's fair to say that I was feeling a tad hungover on Sunday, the effects of the previous night's Colombian celebrations deepening as the day went on. Thankfully, we didn't have much to do. In the morning we walked to a lovely local market where I met my English teacher-friend Magda, who kindly bought us fabulous, reviving fruit juices. Some of the main streets of Bogotá were...

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Latin America Tour / 18 September 2014

We were back at high altitude, and didn't we know it! For those who rarely, or never, find themselves suddenly 2600 metres above sea level, it is quite a shock how hard even the simplest physical exertion becomes. I could see why athletes come to train in the mountains, as the aerobic capacity is seriously diminished. The great violist Lionel Tertis used to practice wearing an overcoat and scarf...

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Latin America Tour / 17 September 2014

For the first time on this tour we awoke in the southern hemisphere. Peru's capital lies 12 degrees south of the equator, so technically it was suddenly spring! Lima's expansive cityscape was shrouded by low-lying white cloud, and the lack of sun and the presence of the nearby post-winter Pacific meant the air was quite cool. It was noticeably easier t0 breathe here than in Mexico City...

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Latin America Tour / 15 September 2014

I find that the second full day after a long haul flight is often the worst in terms of jet lag, and this was no exception. After a fitful night's sleep I began the day with a group yoga session led by Gwen Fisher, my viola colleague. Some of the stretches were more achievable than others (seems to me that men have a distinct biological disadvantage in yoga!), but the gentle, friendly environment...

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Latin America Tour / 10 September 2014

We touched down in Mexico City on Sunday evening after a long, tiring flight which had been made far more bearable by the excellent company of the British Airways flight attendants. They were very excited to have a famous orchestra on board, and were keen to come and hear us play. Almost all seven concerts of this Latin America #philharmoniatour are already sold out, but Assistant Personnel...

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Latin America Tour / 08 September 2014

Hello! Welcome to the Official Philharmonia Orchestra Blog of our Latin America tour with Maestro Ashkenazy, or #OPOBOOLATWMA for short (or, I suppose you could follow the actual hashtag #philharmoniatour as well). It's been quite a while since the orchestra headed to this part of the world, and for many it's a first trip there, so there was a tangible sense of excitement at Saturday's...

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European Tour 2013 / 02 October 2013

Dear Readers, you will be delighted to learn that I learned my lesson from the previous Friday's flight fail, and arrived at Heathrow last Sunday in exceedingly good time to catch our plane to Madrid. In fact, one could say that my travelling group of upper strings were probably a tad over-cautious, arriving as we did almost before check-in had even opened. But better safe than sorry! Frankie...

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European Tour 2013 / 20 September 2013

The second part of our pan-European tour began on Friday 13th. We were due to be flying from Heathrow to Zurich at some ungodly hour for a concert in Lucerne, and for this blogger things went far less than smoothly.

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European Tour 2013 / 12 September 2013

Hello, and welcome to another Philharmonia blog! I'm Sam Burstin, a viola player with the orchestra since 2005, and regular tour blogger. This month we're performing in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and England with our Principal Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, and I'll be describing the most impressive and interesting sights and sounds as we go.

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Japan 2013 / 10 February 2013

I'm writing from our plane home, which is currently 36,000 feet over the top of Norway; the view is magical. The snowy white land is bathed in the glow of a setting sun, which we have been chasing since we took off from the land in which it rises nine and a half hours ago. When we arrive back in London in two and a half hours' time, we shall have succumbed to darkness, the sun having...

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Japan 2013 / 9 February 2013

My plan for the rest of the tour was to stay up late and rise late, thus resetting the body clock back towards European time, or at least trying to. The coaches for Saturday's concert in Yokohama, an hour south of Tokyo (and the venue for the 2002 Football World Cup Final), were to leave at 1.45pm, so I rose around 1 and went and bought a banana and a blueberry yoghurt for breakfast. I figured...

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Japan 2013 / 8 February 2013

Friday lunchtime saw the launch in Japanese of the Philharmonia's awesome app, the Orchestra. I met Nate in the lobby and we took the red Marunouchi line to Ginza, an enormous shopping district in central Tokyo, walked about half a mile to exit A12 and popped out, blinking, into the sunny street. Across the road was a shiny cuboid building with a rotating, once-bitten apple on the roof. I...

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Japan 2013 / 7 February 2013

Thursday saw the first concert of the tour in Tokyo, which was great for two reasons; there was no travelling during the day, which meant time for some sightseeing; and the hall we were playing in that evening was one of the most amazing structures I've ever seen.

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Japan 2013 / 6 February 2013

One of the wonderful things about touring the world is experiencing different cultures; the food is a big part of that. Bento boxes are like a packed lunch, with rice or noodles, dumplings, some meat or tofu, maybe some funky vegetables or some other unidentifiable product (see bento B at the Robot place!).

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Japan 2013 / 5 February 2013

We were quite sorry to be leaving Sapporo, with its fantastic hall, great beer and frankly awesome snow. But Tokyo is a city like no other, and as we took off for the capital, on a surprisingly large plane, I began to reminisce about previous visits.

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Japan 2013 / 4 February 2013

Dear readers, I just spent rather a long time writing today's blog, only for a faulty internet connection to make it disappear completely, seemingly never to arrive, or return for that matter.

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Japan 2013 / 3 February 2013

I'll not lie, it was took quite an effort to drag myself out of bed on Sunday morning, as I'd had more Guinnesses the night before than hours of sleep! But after a quick shower I packed and headed to the lobby with a sense of purpose. I was forgoing breakfast for a walk under a cold, cloudless sky, and headed towards the Motoyasu River and the Peace Memorial Park.

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Japan 2013 / 2 February 2013

I awoke on Saturday around five feeling remarkably refreshed. The previous night's swim had clearly done the trick, and after a hearty buffet breakfast I felt ready for anything. Which was good as we had a long day ahead of us.

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Japan 2013 / 1 February 2013

Our flight between London's Heathrow and Tokyo's Narita airports was as uneventful and unmemorable as most of the movies on offer to us cattle-class passengers.

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Japan 2013 / 31 January 2013

Going on tour is such a regular occurance for us Philharmonia players there is a danger that it can become routine, and therefore less exciting.

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Japan 2013 / 30 January 2013

Hello, and welcome to the Philharmonia's Japan Tour 2013 blog! My name is Sam Burstin, I've been a viola player in the orchestra for seven years, and a few months ago I was writing to you from the USA; blogging topics (blogics?!) included pizza, Jimi Hendrix and the Presidential Election. This time it's more likely to be sushi, Stravinsky and Six Nations Rugby!

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Us Tour 2012 / 1 November 2012

Hello, and welcome to the new Philharmonia blog! My name is Sam Burstin, I've been a violist in the orchestra since 2005, and I'm honoured to have been asked to relay to you the sights, sounds, stresses and stories from our tremendously exciting tour to the Unites States of America, for which we leave on Monday (stormy Sandy permitting!).

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Three Choirs 2012 / 22 July 2012

Luke Whitehead writes: How to describe the Three Choirs Festival... It's a little like a week on tour and a little holiday rolled into one. It's now day three of the festival, which this year is being held in Hereford, and after a VERY early rehearsal for this evening's concert, I'm sitting in the glorious sunshine on my campsite (my chosen accommodation for this year's festival)...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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.

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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.

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Beethoven Series 2012 / 5 March 2012

Gijs Kramers writes: Right, we just got to Bupapest. Glorious day here, nice and crisp which is just what we need since this moring the alarm clock went off at 5.15. Ouch! Yesterday we rehearsed Beethoven's Eroica symphony and Pohjola's Daughter, a great piece by Sibelius about a Finnish guy who has to fulfill an arduous assignment in order to get closer to an unbelievably beautiful woman...

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Beethoven Series 2012 / 2 March 2012

Sam Burstin writes: Hello! We're Sam Burstin and Gijs Kramers from the viola section - welcome to the Philharmonia's new Beethoven Blog! We've been given the honour of describing the magnificent journey the orchestra is embarking on through the works of arguably the greatest composer who ever lived, Ludwig van Beethoven. Our Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, Esa-Pekka Salonen...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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....

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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....

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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!

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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?

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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.

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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.....

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 20 April 2011

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

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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...

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Mahler Series 2011 / 12 April 2011

Simon Oliver writes: What an opening concert!

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Mahler Series 2011 / 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.

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