I have had a lot of comment, of late, about the lack of activity on this blog. I must apologise for this but state that I am back in action now. The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra is just about to embark on another international tour; so as so many have requested to see some progress on the blog I am taking on the job of providing you all with all the news, events, unexpected happenings and all that gratuitous sex and violence you have all come to expect from my reportage.
On this occasion, the RLPO has been invited to participate in two very prestigious international festivals. Our first destination will be Bucharest, Romania. Once there, the orchestra will be playing in the month long The Georges Enescu Festival. Participating alongside us will be other ‘luminaries’ such as the Vienna Philharmonic, The Mariinsky Theatre Symphony Orchestra, Staatskapelle Berlin amongst many others. Vasily Petrenko will be appearing amongst a ‘stellar’ list of conductors such as Barenboim, Gergiev, Mehta (former assistant conductor of the RLPO), Gatti, Papano and Rozhdestvensky. Our second port of call will be taking our place as regular guests at the Dvorak Prague Festival. Sharing this festival, with the RLPO, will be the Czech Philharmonic, the Bamberg Symphony, WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne and many others. Amongst the distinguished roll of conductors will be former Principal Conductor of the RLPO, Petr Altrichter. Both countries have honoured their most celebrated composers by naming these famous festivals after them.
On the domestic front, the RLPO will be missing this year’s Hope Street Feast, in Liverpool, this Sunday. Philharmonic Hall will be open to the public, and traditionally, the orchestra performs free concerts to the public. Personally, I will have to miss the last sweet peas and beans etc on the Urban Farm. My dog, Scooby has had a major operation today: having his cruciate ligaments reattached to his rear knee. He is just sleeping off the anaesthetic for the week at my friend’s house: we call the said friend, the ‘Dog Whisperer.’ Also today, my eighteen year old son, Jonathan, has moved in with me, on a permanent basis whilst he undertakes his studies at Sir Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts.
In reality, the RLPO began this tour on Tuesday evening, when we performed a big chunk of our repertoire to our very own audience in Liverpool and on the previous Saturday when the orchestra opened this year’s concert season in Liverpool with more of the same. For more information on this season’s musical offerings in Liverpool, see our Philharmonic website The programmes were greeted favourably, to say the least, and it is with this ‘critical springboard’ that we are now looking forward to taking the repertoire to mainland Europe.
We are to arrive in Romania on Friday afternoon. Regular readers will already know that travelling via aeroplane almost ruins each trip for me. If I wasn’t paid to make this type of journey, I’m not certain I would ever set foot on a plane. Our equipment and clothing do not travel via the skies but overland. Our team of two platform managers and two assistants have already set off on the orchestra lorry. As soon as the concert was over on Tuesday they began packing the lorry, for what is an arduous 1800 mile journey in three days. They are hoping that fortune smiles and they will meet us in Bucharest on Friday evening, otherwise we will be in the lap of the gods as to whether they will arrive in time for us on Saturday. Here’s hoping!
Most regular readers will know that, for a blog about an orchestra, mine tends to say very little about the music. This is not deliberate, on my part. Nor does it intend to imply that I know nothing about symphonic repertoire. I like to write about the environment, the lifestyles we encounter, the restaurants, the hotels, the night life, the scenery, unexpected events (both good and bad!); anything, in fact, that aids me in presenting the reader with a real ‘flavour’ of life on the road with this well-travelled orchestra.
It is indeed a luxury to spend more than one day in a particular city. It is fortunate therefore that we are to stay in Bucharest for three nights and Prague for two nights. We are to travel back early on Wednesday the 21st September. The first evening in Bucharest is free, as is the first evening in Prague. This means there should be plenty to write home about! The orchestra has worked under two Czech Principal Conductors in recent years, Libor Pesek and Petr Altrichter, and has made many trips to the Czech Republic, including Prague. It is always one of my favourite destinations. It is a beautiful City and I have had many happy times there.
Bucharest is a new city for me. I haven’t travelled to Romania before so this will be an entirely fresh experience for me. The new five star Radisson Blu Hotel is a stone’s throw from the concert venue. The concert venue there, the Sala Palatului, used to serve as the communist party’s assembly hall. It is situated right next to the National Art Museum; very handy for art enthusiasts such as myself. The trombones have supplied me with what can only be best described as a very ‘self-depricating’ guide book to Bucharest. It was published three years after the communist period ended finally, so we are assuming that it has come on ‘leaps and bounds’ since. The city now enjoys a reputation as one of Europe’s hot spots for night life etc.
Okay then, now for the repertoire on offer.
Saturday 17 September 2011
Enescu: Suite no.2
Walton: Violin concerto – Midori soloist
Prokofiev: Symphony no. 7
Sunday 18 September 2011
Stravinsky: Symphony in 3 Movements
Prokofiev: Piano concerto no. 3 – Alexei Volodin soloist
Rachmaninov: Symphony no. 3
Tuesday 20 September 2011
Dvorak: The Wild Dove
Liszt: Piano concerto no. 2 – Lukas Vondracek soloist
Rachmaninov: Symphony no. 3
Every concert will be conducted by Vasily. I think all the works on offer will show the orchestra, Petrenko and the soloists in a very good light. He has worked us hard over the last week and a half, and the preceding concerts mean we are in good shape after the six week summer break.
This tour will be witnessing the end of an era. DonTurnbull, a member of the first violin section, will be retiring from the orchestra when we land back in Liverpool next Wednesday. Don joined the RLPO in 1966, the same year I was born. A fine violinist, and a good friend to all, Don would be missed if it wasn’t for the fact that he is being employed for some time as a freelance player with the orchestra after the trip!
Most of my luggage and my best trumpets have travelled ahead , on the lorry. Like many, I will be taking a ‘spare’ instrument and mute for practice in the hotel. Some don’t bother, but I like to feel in shape on tours and feel happier to do a bit of ‘warming up’ in the mornings and honing the important bits of that days repertoire. I had better sign off now as the coach leaves at 6.00am in the morning, and I haven’t packed yet! Please follow the blog as the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra pursues yet another foreign adventure. Right, that’s all the ‘hard’ detail over with; and now, let the tour commence…