Two of my favourite British orchestral players' blogs at the moment: Gareth Davies, who is principal flute of the London Symphony Orchestra, on touring with one of the world's most globe-trotting bands; and Ant's Rants, cellist Anthony Sayer's opinionated essays on the inner workings of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the music he plays with them.
Gareth's latest reveals how the LSO's principal conductor, Valery Gergiev, gets the best out of his players as they perform Prokofiev and Beethoven on a coast-to-coast tour of the States. He tells us why the flutes take a collective gulp when Gergiev comes on stage smiling before a performance of Prokofiev's Classical Symphony: "This is a bad sign for me as it usually means it is going to be quick." There's another mild panic before the frenetic finale, preceded by another ominous Gergiev grin: "I think it's probably the same adrenaline rush as bungee jumpers get." Audiences never quite know what to expect with Gergiev – and neither, reading Gareth's blog, do the players.
Anthony Sayer takes a different approach over at the BBCSSO: concerning a recent concert of Bruckner's Ninth and Jonathan Harvey's Speakings, he knits together Anton's confronting his own mortality, in that unprecedented pile-up of dissonance at the climax of the third movement, with Harvey's experimental transformation of the orchestra into an ensemble capable of quasi-vocal expression. These include sounds from a solo oboe of which Anthony says there "should be a warning to perinatal mothers that they might start lactating … if an oboist could trigger lactation, it would be something to boast about". Yes it would. Any composer would be proud to be able to wield the biological power of music so efficiently: it doesn't just change our brains, but our bodies, too.
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