If you have been following my twitter page you will know that I have just got back from an absolutely wonderful seven weeks in Europe. While most of the time my wife and I were doing our best to elegantly float from historic building to museum to gallery..., we did manage to make the most of the amazing musical offerings that Europe provides.
We saw two orchestral concerts - the first being the London Symphony at the Barbican playing Brahms' 3rd symphony and 2nd piano concerto (photo above). Daniel Harding was at the helm with Emanuel Ax on piano. The second was the Czech Philharmonic in Dvořák Hall of the Rudolfinum. Jiří Bělohlávek conducted Martinů's "What Men Live By" and then Dvořák's Slavonic Dances. Such a thrill to hear Dvořák played in his own concert hall by an orchestra that he conducted the first concert of in 1896. Amazing also to hear how two of the world's top orchestras can sound so completely different.
We of course also snuck in the obligatory West End show - The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. While it certainly impressed we couldn't help but notice a lack of spontaneity and freshness that comes with performing a show every... single... day of the year. However, it WAS great, and we loved checking out West End and neighbouring Covent Garden.
Perhaps one of the most special offerings was my afternoon spent at Abbey Road Studios. Through my work on two of The Hobbit films I met with the legendary Jill Streater - she has worked as music copyist on about 102 films including The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Casino Royale, Alice in Wonderland, The King's Speech, The Chronicles of Narnia and Gravity. I got in touch and she happened to be working on a project at Abbey Road while we were in London. It was so wonderful to meet her in person, chat about music prep, check out the studios and then observe the session. Oh, and I tried really hard not to have a 'crazy-teenage-fangirl' moment in the corridor as I passed Alexandre Desplat. Such an incredible place and so special to be able to spend some time there.
Everything else in this post will seem completely insignificant after the last paragraph, but I will continue... While we may not have seen concerts at these venues, we made sure we checked out the most impressive of the concert halls, including the Berlin Philharmonie - where we missed a Sir Simon Rattle led rehearsal by about 5mins (oh, the heartbreak, seriously), Musikverein and Konzerthaus in Vienna, Royal Albert Hall in London and the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.
Musical instrument museums were in abundance - the one beside the Berlin Philharmonie was particularly impressive, as are the statues of the greats which make a great photo spot. I think we got to Strauss, Schubert, Bruckner, Mozart and Beethoven. We got to some old homes too - Handel's apartment in London, Mozart's apartment in Vienna, and his birth and childhood homes in Salzburg. It seems Vienna and Salzburg have a battle going on about who owns Mozart - either way, he earns both cities a lot of money as you can buy Mozart ANYTHING, from stress balls to underwear, chocolate to coffee, and of course the obligatory coasters and tea towels.
Well, let's leave the commercialisation of music and return to two final experiences that were absolute highlights. We'd been told to head up the hill in Florence to the Basilica of San Miniato al Monte where each evening at 4:30pm you can listen to the monks from the adjoining Olivetan Monastery singing in the crypt. While people came and went, we couldn't help but stay for the whole 50mins or so - we were absolutely captivated. Who knows what they were saying, but musically it was incredible.
Finally, in Salzburg on Christmas Eve we waited in the freezing temperatures to get a spot at the Midnight Mass in Salzburg Cathedral. It ended with four soloists singing "Silent Night" (which was written in Salzburg) by candlelight, accompanied by acoustic guitar, and with interludes from the divine organ and church choir. You could have heard a pin drop in the capacity-filled cathedral. Magic. As was every taste of music we had, and the whole trip.