On arrival in Birmingham we were greeted by a lively and colourful German Christmas Market, scenting the air with wurst and glühwein as we made our way to Symphony Hall.  Pre-rehearsal saw a flurry of Christmas cards exchanged:  the result of an afternoon and evening at home!  Simon must have felt himself in a time-warp as he rehearsed with us, with exhortations to round out the ends of notes and reach for extremities in our dynamic range, to exploit the idiosyncracies of this exceptional hall, which he’d inhabited from its inception.  Indeed it owed its very existence to Simon.

This concert, which felt extremely special to us, must have stirred up many memories for Simon as well as for the 2000-strong audience, of whom the core must surely have been his loyal admirers.  (Incidentally the acoustic was as faithful to the splutterers as to us!)

Simon’s electric immediacy and spontaneous gestures drew crackling energy from us and the audience reaction was palpable.

We unwound homewards, in cars and a merry band on the train, reverting to Glyndebourne- commute mode.  This morning, Stansted – headed for more German Christmas markets!

Annette Isserlis, viola

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