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Yes we’re still eking out news from our Simon Rattle tour…

It was the first trip with the Orchestra for our Digital Content Officer, Zen, and here’s his account of the tour:

Often described as the ‘intrepid’ cameraman, I have to say I embarked on this trip, my first OAE tour experience, with a fair dose of trepidation. How would I fair in this close-knit orchestral group for almost 4 days – or more importantly how would they react to having a camera almost constantly in their faces?

The brief was to capture as much footage of the tour as possible and edit it down to a video of duration no greater than 2’59” (a length that was agreeable to the various venues and agents) and to get to know the players better.  A familiarity with the players is very useful when harassing them for a voxpop.  Many have already been subjected to on the spot interviews and know how I usually pounce in rehearsal breaks, but Kings Place where we often rehearse allows plenty of hiding places, not so a packed Eurostar carriage…

Drinks with the Orchestra

Important work. Getting to know the Orchestra.

Getting to know the players better was something I got stuck into straight away.  The brass/percussion section took me under their wing on the first night in Brussels (a rare night off for the orchestra) confirming the stereotype with a comprehensive tour of the local bars.  I survived, but barely.  The next morning I emerged from the hotel in a daze only to see both coaches departing on their way to Luxembourg… were they trying to get rid of me already? My surname ‘Grisdale’ had been crossed off accidently along with ‘Griffiths’, Kevin our young conductor.  Nevertheless they saw me waving in a panic and let me on board.

So I made it to the Philharmonie Luxembourg, which is a beautiful concert hall in a rather bleak part of town which is largely a building site, a lot of construction going on.  The hall inside is impressive with boxes that look like mini blocks of flats.  After filming the rehearsal I sought to approach Sir Simon Rattle for a few quick words.  In a previous OAE video about CPE Bach I managed to get Sir Roger Norrington in front of the camera as he sipped his tea during rehearsal break and he happily divulged all things CPE.  This technique I wished to apply to Sir Simon Rattle.  Unfortunately it was not to be, so we agreed to postpone it to the final London date at the Royal Festival Hall.

The Labèque sisters were up for it and Katia insisted that I film them as much as possible in rehearsals etc.  However an interview was not on the cards as they were both not feeling well (really they weren’t) but they gave me their word that they would also do it at the Royal Festival Hall… Read the rest of this entry »

As you may just have noticed from this blog, one of the highlights of our year so far has been our tour with Sir Simon Rattle and Katia and Marielle Labèque. After concerts in Luxembourg, Paris and Dublin, the tour culminated in a sold-out show at the Royal Festival Hall. Our intrepid camera-man Zen caught up with you after the show to find out what you thought. Sadly our celebrity guest Madonna (did we mention she came?) slipped out a little early so we didn’t get her thoughts on camera…

Last Tuesday’s concert at the Royal Festival Hall with Sir Simon Rattle was always going to be a busy night. Not only was it Sir Simon, which always brings a frisson of excitement, but we had a sold-out Royal Festival Hall, which while fantastic, is always a little stressful. We also had a plethora of different receptions going on around the venue for the various people who had supported our Silver Appeal and for our sponsors, Commerzbank. At the last moment though, an additional complication was thrown into the mix.

As you might have read previously on the blog we knew that Madonna liked the Labèque sisters, so we really did send an invite to her. Of course we didn’t think for a minute she would actually come. The day before the concert our Intern, Georgina, received a mysterious call from someone needing to make special arrangements for a VIP. They had previously been in contact with our Projects Director, Ceri, but she was now in the air en route to Dublin. So Georgina took down all the details and requests of the mysterious VIP without actually knowing who it was. Ceri was uncontactable for the next 2 hours – cue feverish speculation in  the OAE office.

As soon as Ceri landed Georgina called her. It was indeed the Queen of Pop Madonna. To use teen speak, everyone was a bit OMG. Read the rest of this entry »

Violinist Susie Carpenter-Jacobs sent us this blog from mid-way through our tour with Sir Simon Rattle the other week:

There’s been hectic activity in the orchestra this week: Haydn and Mozart have been jostling for supremacy in the hands of Sir Simon Rattle and the Labèque sisters, from Luxembourg, to Paris, Dublin and the Royal Festival Hall; rehearsals for Handel’s Rinaldo have started in London, and Don Giovanni continues to seduce the ladies at Glyndebourne.

As a Don Giovanni stage-band participant for the first time this year, it has been instructive to discover that, while lust, death and deception is pouring forth from stage and pit (and that’s before curtain up), stage-band life itself involves skulking around the murky underworld of props cupboards and scenery stores down in the depths of the opera house, whilst keeping an eye on the clock and an ear to the back stage relay system. For, every musician’s nightmare is to become aware that the cue to your vital musical moment has arrived whilst you are situated several staircases and corridors away from imminent action.

Last Sunday the classiest musical event at Glyndebourne took place during the first act of Don Giovanni, well away from the drama unfolding on the stage: a landmark, debut performance of “Knickerbocker Glory” given to a small, select audience by the youngest soloist to have played at the opera house this year – six year old Nona – daughter of Jo (violin) and Martin Lawrence (horn); delivered with style, panache and aplomb, in time honoured fashion in the OAE.

So brilliant was Nona’s playing that this correspondent was granted permission to join her for a triumphant encore – before the former collapsed in a heap, and the latter sprinted niftily down the aforementioned staircases and corridors to join stage band colleagues gathering in a storage cupboard.

For, over the Tannoy, Zerlina had launched into “Batti batti” and the cue for our brief appearance was approaching…

Susie Carpenter-Jacobs, violin

Every time a project involving fortepianos appears on our advance schedule, my heart sinks a little – not because I don’t like the sound of them, or enjoy hearing some of the fantastic repertoire that was written for them, but fortepianos usually = logistical nightmare.   And this time there were 2 of them…

The quest to source two matching pianos started a couple of years ago.  We spoke to our usual suppliers and had sussed that there were a couple of pianos based in the UK – a copy of an Anton Walter piano (a piano maker based in Vienna around Mozart’s time), made by Paul McNulty, and also a copy of a Michael Rosenberger which might be a good match.  Katia Labèque was going to be in London at the end of January 2011 and so we arranged a session up at Craxton studios for her to trial them.  Perfect, we thought, the pianos could be used in the UK for the rehearsals, then we’d take them on tour to Luxembourg, Paris, Dublin and bring them back to London for our final concert at the RFH, then they could return to their owners. Simples. Except the pianos weren’t ideally matched in tone and timbre and so the quest continued. Read the rest of this entry »

Full service on the blog will resume tomorrow, but in the meantime here are some pictures from our performance at the Philharmonie in Luxembourg the other week, where we performed with Sir Simon Rattle and the Labèque sisters. All pictures © Sébastien Grébille.

Simon Rattle at RFHWell, the reviews are in from our Rattle concert on Tuesday at the Royal Festival Hall, plus a couple from the tour too. You can read them via the links below, but here are three of our favourite quotes:

“That continuing rapport was immediately and sustainedly obvious in this delightful Haydn and Mozart concert, and all without any of the publicity overload that surrounded his Berliner Philharmoniker dates earlier in the year.

There was some Haydn in those Berlin programmes, too, but this time, working with a much smaller and more specialist band, the treatment was more authentic and enjoyable.” THE GUARDIAN (4 stars)

“It was in the two Haydn symphonies that Rattle and the OAE best showed what a triumphant partnership the two have honed in some 25 years working together” THE TIMES (5 stars)

“When this music is played by the OAE light doesn’t just dawn, it dazzles; and even more so when Sir Simon Rattle is on the podium” THE TELEGRAPH (5 stars)

Guardian

Telegraph

Times

BBC Music Magazine

Classical Source

Bach Track

Irish Times (Dublin concert)

Petite Classique (Luxembourg concert, in French)

Picture by Joe Plommer

Last night’s concert of Mozart and Haydn with Sir Simon Rattle and the Labèque sisters was broadcast LIVE from the Royal Festival Hall by Radio 3, and it’s available to listen to all over again online here for the next 6 days. Enjoy! Listen to the concert here

Katia and Marielle Labèque

For the latest in our Speed Interview series we catch up with Katia Labèque (pictured on the left), who, together with her sister Marielle, is currently performing on tour with us and Sir Simon Rattle.

What/when was your big breakthrough?
I suppose when our first CD of Rhapsodie in Blue went gold in few months. It did focus the attention of the people on us and also on the repertoire we were playing.

What do you fear the most?
Death of the people we love

Which mobile number do you call the most?
I don’t call often because I prefer the computer.

What – or where – is perfection?
Thank God perfection does not exist…that gives each of us the possibility to try to reach it.

Who is your favourite hero from fiction (book/comic/film/opera) – and why?
Bartleby: “I would prefer not to…” If I really have to explain I see him as an artist who refuses to compromise his art, who refuses to conform to the model of the society he lives in… Read the rest of this entry »

Anyone who knows us well will know that we don’t ‘do’ ordinary pianos. We use period pianos, in-keeping with our philosophy of being authentic. Ceri, our Projects Director, has promised to write a little blog about the pianos used on our upcoming tour with the Labeque sisters, so look out for it appearing here soon. In the meantime, today was our first rehearsal with the sisters and the Fortepianos, basically early versions of today’s piano, were looking rather splendid.

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