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The tail end of the summer saw us reunited with our Emeritus Conductor Sir Roger Norrington for a very special project – a 3 concert tour of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. As you can imagine, this is not a piece the OAE performs very frequently. In fact the last time we played it was back in 2000, with Sir Simon Rattle. So we were thrilled to be able to tackle it again, in the company of Chopin’s first Piano Concerto with soloist Nikolai Demidenko and Beethoven’s Egmont Overture.
Of course, one of the reasons we so infrequently perform this piece is the (for the OAE) vast size of the Orchestra. On this occasion this necessitated the use of our very own charter aircraft for most of the tour as, with this many people, this became the most economical way to transport the Orchestra between the three cities we were visiting – Brussels, Warsaw and, a first for us, Helsinki.
We were excited to be met with a very warm reception in each venue – with local press in Helsinki remarking that while the reserved concert-going public there had not got to their feet for the Royal Concertegouw Orchestra or Berliner Philharmoniker, they had for us! The concert in Helsinki (pictured) marked the end of the 3-date tour, and at a drinks reception afterwards we were secretly thrilled when the director of the festival told us we had made modern orchestras interpretations of the piece seem ‘boring’!
The Helsinki date marked not just the end of the tour but the last concert for two long-standing and much loved members of the OAE – both viola players – Katherine Hart and Jan Schlapp. So smiles were mixed with tears and many reflected that they could not have marked the end of their OAE careers in a finer way.
Watch out for more about Jan and Katherine in future blogs
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