28 January 2010, Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall, London
Sometimes I forget how universal music is. Watching Barenboim rehearse the Berlin Staatskapelle in German.. I am reminded that whenever I watch an orchestra perform, I never think: they might not speak the same language that I do. And so I’m watching them with fascination as they rehearse in their language. I wonder if there is a language that best expresses music. Just like Eskimos have an extensive vocabulary for snow. I reckon it must be Italian. Mezzo piano, tutti, coda, crescendo…
What an honour it is to be able to watch The Maestro conduct one of the best orchestras in the world. I’m also really excited because I managed to get last minute tickets to see one of the performances as part of this series he is doing at Royal Festival Hall. I like seeing the orchestra all dressed up glamourously to perform but equally it’s just as interesting to see them in normal clothes and in a more relaxed state. Seeing some of them bored or distracted when another section is rehearsing makes them real. And you see expressions you don’t normally see from the conductor. The animated sigh of relief or contentment when the orchestra finally gets it right, the furious efforts of getting a phrase right and at the same time trying to figure out what he is jabbering away about in German!
I also find it interesting to look at the make-up of the orchestra. This one comes from quite a cosmopolitan place, evident in the varying nationalities. More men than women which is interesting as I imagine more women than men in this world play orchestral instruments. I could be totally wrong though. It’s quite a big orchestra. 4 harpists and 8 double bassists! Never seen that before.
Conductors really do live in a whole other world. I find it amazing that they can hear what they want a piece to sound like in their heads. I can tell when a piece sounds good or not, and a gist of what could make a piece sound better…but to be able to dissect a piece on paper, hear and then conduct it and the orchestra in its entirety… that’s amazing.