Sunday Sevens #32

I haven’t written a Sunday Sevens in a while, and I so love doing them. So thanks to Natalie at Theads and Bobbins, who devised the wonderful series, and here’s my seven (plus a few more), for Sunday!

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New work space

DIY: Last weekend, David was busy sprucing up the guest bedroom/study. We spent most of Saturday driving back and forth from Warrington’s IKEA to purchase box cupboards which would conceal all our detritus. I think he’s done a fantastic job! We have so much more storage space and a bigger work surface.

#walk1000miles: I think it’s always nice to update you all on how my walk 1000 miles challenge is going. This week I have managed to rake up a reasonable 34 miles, (my best tally so far!), which brings my total for the year so far to 601 miles! My miles are mainly made up of hours on the treadmill, walking between bus stops, lots of scanning in work (the scanner is at the opposite end of the corridor from the office) and walking the dog. I think Riley appreciates the increase in walks. He is eight now and carrying a few extra pounds due to being neutered when he was three. I thought I was doing the right thing by neutering him, but no one told me he would put on weight after it! Anyway, Riley (and myself) has loved his park runs and visits to Crosby Beach, even if the wind was fierce the last time we visited!

Collecting: It’s been a while since I found a Beatrix Potter 50p. This week while counting the petty cash in work, my boss and I found a third collectible, Squirrel Nutkin! How cute is he?

Pets: This week our Blue-faced Parrot Finch, Forrest has been laying eggs. Her mate Leaf has been busy lining the nest with feathers and straw. I wonder if any of the eggs will hatch? We shall see in a fortnights time! I’ll update you all!

Book I am reading: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I’m only 50 pages into the book but it’s accompanying me while on my daily commute to work. I am enjoying the characters so far. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Culture: This Saturday (17th) was the day Hans Zimmer and his Live on Tour came to Liverpool. This was my second time of seeing him live on stage. You can read my review on the Birmingham 2016 concert here. Though it was the same programme as his European tour, there were subtle differences. The orchestra and choir had been paired down. I personally preferred the energy of the Birmingham concert, but there was the same chat by Zimmer with anecdotes on the films he had scored. The lighting was just as fierce but I think there was less camaraderie between the principal performers. The Liverpool audience were a little too vocal for my taste but the show of phone torches after Aurora was touching, though I wish he wouldn’t talk over all of it. It is a beautiful composition, reminiscent of the vocal version of Barber’s Adagio for Strings. My two favourite pieces did not disappoint, in fact One Day from Pirates of the Caribbean Three brought tears to my eyes. The Dark Knight medley was just as energetic and inspiring! I felt blessed to see my music hero live onstage!

Have you been to see any live music recently? What’s your experience of arena tours?

Days out: The weather this weekend has been beautiful. Perfect summer days filled with lots of warm sunshine and mild clear evenings. I must say it has been a very full weekend! I was going to end the post with Hans Zimmer’s concert but I just wanted to share with you my wonderful Sunday.

After visiting Claremont Farm in the Wirral and picking our own juicy strawberries. David and I headed for the coast and Thurstaston Beach, to have our lunch overlooking the sandy estuary. I’ll write more in my 30 Days Wild – Week 3, but for now here are some pictures of our wonderful day.

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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2017 – A Year of Possibilities!

So, here we are, into the third week of 2017 and I have already been filling up the diary like mad! There are birthdays and anniversaries and Bank Holidays, and then there are the days David and I have planned away.

It has been well over a year since we last took in a concert at the Philharmonic Hall. This year we have the opportunity to see The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in their recital of Mahler’s 5th Symphony.

GABRIEL-Poster280-min.jpgWe shall also be visiting The Liverpool Playhouse to see Paul McGann in Gabriel, a powerful drama during the Nazi occupation of Guernsey.

I have an Afternoon Tea booked at Jam (courtesy of my friend Kelly) as a Valentines treat for David and I in February!

Thank you to Louise at Ramblings of a Roachling for suggesting the Circle of Pine Trees‘s initiative, The Year in Books. I thought I would participate this year even though I may not get to read many books. I aim to read 40, but we shall see! Reading seems to come in fits and starts for me.

At present the first book I have read in 2017 is, Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing with Feathers. I am currently half way through David Jones’s In Parenthesis.

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I may be crazy but I have signed up to the challenge to #walk1000miles, sponsored by Country Walking and Live for the Outdoors. I think 1000 miles is quite doable in a year. I am taking into account, the walking to and from work, the exercises I do at home and the numerous walks in the countryside. I hope all will aid the final total in December. For the past two weeks I have totaled 50 miles. Not bad for a city girl in administration!

Once again I look forward to participating in The Wildlife Trusts 30 Days Wild! I wonder what wild things I will get up to this year?!

In keeping with the theme, Wild in Art have more animal trails to follow this summer, among them there is a sleuth of Sun Bears in Birmingham!

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War Horse

And finally, I booked tickets to see War Horse at the Liverpool Empire two years ago! This November we will finally get to see this emotional show! I hope it’s as good as the reviews!

So there you have it, a selection of all the things I am participating in and eagerly looking forward to this year. There will undoubtedly be many, many more!

Have you made any plans for 2017?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Hans Zimmer – Live on Tour

03_HANS-ZIMMER_live-on-tour-2016_Foto_Steve-GilletI first realised the music of Hans Zimmer in The Lion King (1994), the soundtrack earned him his Oscar! I didn’t care much for the songs of Elton John but the orchestrated pieces were breathtaking. He managed to convey all the emotions in the film; love, terror, heartbreak and joy. Listening to Stampede, if you close your eyes you can imagine the buffaloes bearing down on Simba.

Over the years, I have accumulated many of his soundtracks. Fan based videos on YouTube are a great source to go to, as well as Wikipedia and Amazon. I could list all of his soundtracks, but I won’t. You can read more here.

Biography search results suggest that during his early career, as well as writing themes for BBC TV shows, (Going for Gold being one of them), he produced and featured briefly in the video of The Buggles’s number one hit single, Video Killed the Radio Star (1979) which was a theme from my early childhood. So even though I was not aware of Hans Zimmer as a composer, his music contributed to the soundtrack of my 80’s.

In 2001 he received great acclaim for his soundtrack to Gladiator. I was a little slow on the uptake but since then most of my free time has been filled with the music of Hans Zimmer. For me, he seems to be the go to composer whether you want to be energised as in the rollicking tracks of Inception or to have a good cry, the music from The Dark Knight Rises seems to hit a particular cord with me.

No other living composers music has had such a profound effect on me as does Hans Zimmer’s. So imagine my excitement when his Live on Tour was advertised last year! For many years, it has been a dream of mine to see the music of Hans Zimmer being performed by a live orchestra, but for the man himself to be performing on stage also is something I never comprehended.

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In London two years ago Hans Zimmer did ‘trial’ arena shows because he didn’t believe ‘anybody would actually show up’. I was tempted to go but the cost, not just of the tickets but of travelling and accommodation put me off. So last year on the day tickets were released I eagerly snapped up a couple for the Birmingham date. It may have cost a small fortune but to have a dream come true, it was worth it! A month later I was reeling as they released a new date in Manchester, but that is by the by. Birmingham it would be!

April 12th 2016: Being my nosy, inquisitive self I already knew what to expect come the day of the concert. I was looking forward to One Day from Pirates of the Caribbean and The Dark Knight medley.

The Barclaycard Arena was relatively easy to get to by car but due to certain roads being closed in major roadworks we left with plenty of time. Inside we were subjected to bags being searched and the boys being frisked! Once finally past security, I bought my programme which was £10, in London it had been £15! Then went in search for our uncomfy seats.

We sat in eager suspense for 40 minutes, then the lights in the arena dimmed and an excited hush murmured from the crowd. Hans Zimmer, his guests and a 70 piece orchestra took to the stage just after 8pm, even though there were still a lot of empty spaces in the audience. People were still being shown to their seats while the choir sang 160BPM from Angels and Demons, which irked me somewhat. I took some pictures but they weren’t very good. I wish I had taken my camcorder but didn’t know whether photography was allowed.

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What I like about Hans Zimmer is that he collaborates with (and mentors) people from diverse musical backgrounds and this concert was no different. It felt more like an ensemble production rather than a one man show.

The first set went too fast! I almost blinked and missed it! It was wonderful to hear so many favourite themes. We were entertained by Gladiator, Czarina Russell sung it so beautifully. The Lion King performed by Lebo M made everyone teary and Tina Guo flicked her hair as much as she did the bow across her cello for the Pirates of the Caribbean medley. The sound was impeccable, not ear tingling as in some concerts, and the lighting was inventful, in the second half of the show it became more akin to a rock concert!

There was a 20 minute interval. We went to stretch our legs before the darker second set began, which was filled with superheroes, inhuman guitar riffs and drums that reverberated through your body.

Even though at times there was a lot of bombast, the quieter moments where Hans Zimmer talked anecdotally about his career were more intimate, even in a big arena space.

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The Dark Knight medley did not disappoint. I sat through it tapping my feet and grinning, much like the Joker. I felt bereft when Interstellar pipped up. I knew that the show was drawing to a close. As the final triumphant bars of Stay vibrated around the arena, Hans Zimmer stood conducting from the front. The note faded and he took a bow as everyone in the audience stood to their feet. Some of us stayed standing knowing that he would come back onto the stage for an encore. I was surprised that quite a few people left before he came back to perform the medley from Inception. ‘Fools,’ I thought as Mombasa lit up the stage like a rave. The night ended with Time. If there was a piece of music that was written to describe the human condition, then Time would be it! Heart-achingly painful and yet so brief. The night ended on the wave of Hans Zimmer’s hand and the audience standing to its feet once again.

There are moments in life when I wish I could push the rewind button and relive the experience again and again. This concert was exactly like that, if I had a fairy godmother I would suggest Manchester! :p However I will just have to make do with watching the videos I took and others like them on YouTube. I hope you enjoy the concert compilation I have mixed below and any feedback is appreciated.

In the future, I look forward to Hans Zimmer’s next installment for the Ron Howard film, Dan Brown’s Inferno. I wonder if it will be just as good as his Da Vinci Code soundtrack?

I will end the post with Hans Zimmer’s own words taken from the concert programme. I found them very profound.

‘Concerts are in real time…I get to be…part of you; and you be a part of me. Only in this very moment does this exist. We’re lucky, in these tumultuous and violent times, to have art and music to lean upon and unite us. At this very moment it is at its most essential. It breaks through the boundaries…and just allows us to be people united in common enjoyment and pleasure for a few precious hours. My hope is that tonight my music speaks to you personally, wherever you are in your unique story.’

© 2016 Christine Lucas.

Sunday Sevens #4

Saturday 19th March 2016 was Earth Hour, so I plunged David and I into darkness for one hour between 8.30-9.30pm. Did you partake in the hour?

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Earlier that evening, after a busy day of ‘spring’ cleaning, I made a One Pan Mexican Quinoa. I tweaked the recipe a little, omitting the avocado and lime but added a red onion and small pepper. I also 20160319_180028 (2)changed the sweetcorn to peas as David doesn’t like corn!

The meal was simple, just cut the vegetables and measure the quinoa and then pop them all into a pan with beans, stock and tinned tomatoes and cook for 20 minutes, until the quinoa releases its tails! The outcome was a fresh, tasting meal. I will definitely be making it again in the future!

On Thursday the postman delivered some lovely news. My tickets for the Hans Zimmer concert in April at the Birmingham Barclaycard Arena arrived!! I was so happy!

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That same day while making a cup of tea, I peered out of the kitchen window towards the back garden and my eyes spied a small bird flitting about the tree branches. It was a little Wren! He stayed long enough for me to video him!

The beginning of the week saw lovely blue skies and spring-like temperatures hit the NW of England. David, Artie and I spent some much needed time in the garden, cleaning away old foliage and soaking up the warm rays of the sun. I noticed that there are lots of tulips growing again this season and there are some plants I don’t even know what they are! Perhaps you recognise them?

20160317_175108It’s been two weeks since I planted my seeds of french beans, spring onions and peppers. I have hundreds of beans and onions growing! I don’t know where in the garden I will put them once they are ready to be planted outside! After some studying I read that french beans grow up to a meter in height! I am also going to need some bamboo sticks for support! How do you think my seedlings are coming along?

Do you have any spring projects on the go?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and Bobbins.

Gustav Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony!

I’m not an expert in classical music. I don’t know much terminology nor can I decipher notation. I listen just because it makes me feel. Some pieces make me feel serene: Allegri’s Miserere, some make me want to dance, Arturo Márquez’s Danzón No. 2, and others just simply take me to a place both spiritually and emotionally that is unparalleled by any other medium! For me, Gustav Mahler’s music does that above any other composer. I may be a bit biased as Mahler was the composer who made me turn away from my ‘pop’ loving years of the 90’s to re-acquaint myself with classical music, but his symphonies especially his later ones from the 5th onwards often have me quaking with a mixture of heightened emotions!

Gustav-Mahler

Gustav Mahler

There is joy to be heard in Mahler’s work for example his 1st Symphony bristles with youthful energy. Love is to be found in his 3rd Symphony, not only human love but of nature too. His 9th Symphony is filled with heavy pathos and heartfelt resignation but it is not done in a depressive way, it’s more of an enlightened way, which enables deep soul searching. And then there is the fear and tragedy that punctuates his 6th Symphony and resonates so powerfully in his 2nd!

It is Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, entitled the Resurrection, that I now turn my attention to.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra performed the Resurrection twice this April, on Wednesday 29th and again on Thursday 30th. I booked tickets for the Wednesday performance. It was almost a full house! We were in the ‘cheap seats’ up in the gallery but we had a perfect view of the brightly illuminated orchestra.

Mahler's 2nd at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Mahler’s 2nd at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

I read the programme notes before the concert and Stephen Johnson mentioned that in the early performances of Mahler’s first three symphonies, Mahler gave detailed accounts of each movement and what ’emotions they aroused.’ However he was not entirely satisfied with having to tell the audience what to feel, what he meant by his music. Mahler said, ‘In my conception of the work I was in no way concerned with the detailed setting forth of an event, but much rather of  a feeling.’ This remark resonated with me and on the night of the concert the feelings became manifest sending goose flesh and shivers all over my body. In fact the performance of the Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Sir Andrew Davis reverberated deep within my body and I felt the effects long after I had left the hall and stood shivering outside awaiting my bus! Even David who is not a Mahler fan said he felt ‘shivers’.

Sir Andrew Davis is not a conductor I have seen perform before. I know of his reputation but have not seen him conduct live. He is a conductor of much energy, jumping and jigging on the podium with his long tail coat flapping. He did not carry a baton but commanded the orchestra with the shape of his expressive hands. You could see that he really had fun with the orchestra. His years of experience showed. I was surprised to read that Davis was 71 years old he really moved about with the energy of a younger man, I couldn’t keep my eyes off him!

Sir Andrew Davis

Sir Andrew Davis

The sound from the orchestra was breathtaking. In the 2nd Symphony there are moments of light hearted fun (the Ländler) and solemn solemnity as found in the Urlicht performed by the Mezzo Soprano Catherine Wyn-Rogers. I could find no fault in her performance, nor that of the choir, however Catherine Jones of the Liverpool Echo said the ‘German text wasn’t as crisp as it could have been.’ The brass for me still played a bit ropey at times (though they got the loudest cheer come applause) and some passages sounded a bit muted in the hall. In her review, Catherine Jones said ‘even the controversial new acoustic, which tends to over-amplify the brass, acted in the work’s favour by adding depth rather than overpowering the whole.’

Alfred Hickling reporting for the Guardian remarked at the ‘frenzied’ attack Davis gave Mahler’s second. I found that the pace was ideal, though brisk it sounded better than some languishing performances of the symphony. Hickling commented mainly on Davis’s appointment as Conductor Emeritus. On the night he was presented with the award and made a speech saying he was ‘deeply touched and honoured’ by the gift and relished ‘the prospect of making music regularly,’ in Liverpool, a ‘wonderfully vibrant city, of which the Orchestra is the finest jewel.’ I’d have to agree. While Davis was making this speech and the orchestra and chorus performed Mendelssohn’s Lauda Sion Op.7I felt overwhelming pride and respect for the Liverpool Philharmonic, and with this being their 175th year anniversary there is much to celebrate!

My most favourite part of the Resurrection Symphony (apart from Urlicht) is about 10 minutes into the finale. It is the orchestral version of the hymn like chorale that will finish the symphony. When I listen to this part that steadily builds up into a triumphant crash of percussion interlaced with strings and trumpeting brass I always imagine the golden rays of a rising sun stretching its light over a slumbering countryside. Sheep rear their heads from a night of rest and a horse drawn carriage trundles along a narrow country lane. Under Davis’s command the Liverpool Philharmonic played this passage to awe-inspiring heights, some would call it apotheosis, (no recordings I’ve heard come close to it!) The sound filled the entire auditorium! My heart swelled with emotion and I have never heard the orchestra sound so loud, so passionate, so emotional, I indeed had a tear in my eye!

The only jip I had was with the audience, of hissing coke bottles being opened, mobile phones tinkling and the guy behind me humming along to the choir! But none could detract from the performance which culminated in the most rousing finale I’d ever heard!

What would Mahler have thought? If he had heard the mobile phone he would have undoubtedly stopped the performance, like he did when someone had a coughing fit at one of his performances.

Though undoubtedly what Mahler would have thought is of little consequence. Personally, I came away from the hall feeling satisfied. A young couple in front of us talked about how religious the symphony was. I have a feeling Mahler’s Resurrection is more emotional than religious, whether it is a ‘spiritual religious’ or a ‘spiritual emotional’ is another discussion. What is for certain is that there is no ‘judgement’ in Mahler’s 2nd Symphony. Stephen Johnson in his programme notes says that, ‘the 2nd Symphony marks a huge progression from darkness and death through to light and affirmation of life and love.’ There ‘is no judgement…There is no punishment… an overwhelming love illuminates our being. We know and are.’ It can only be a good thing to be all knowing at the end of it all. The end of all things.

© Christine Lucas 2015.

Liverpool International Music Festival 2013

Below find more footage I took of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko, opening the International Music Festival in Sefton Park.

I am not a big festival goer nor a big fan of bands but on discovering that the Philharmonic were performing at Sefton Park only 15 minutes drive from me, I knew I just had to go! On the Friday I was so very excited, I was like a child waiting for Father Christmas to visit! The rain stayed off and the music and setting was enthralling! I hope you think so too. 🙂

RLPO playing John Barry’s James Bond Theme.

RLPO playing Klaus Badelt’s Pirates of the Caribbean theme.

RLPO playing Holst’s Mars from the Planets.

Happiness is for Everyone.

Friday was the beginning of the August long weekend and AT LAST I have something more interesting to write about than garden birds! David with car packed full with deck chairs took my Mum, brother Daniel, his friend Paul and myself to Sefton Park to see the opening of the Liverpool International Music Festival.

First on the bill was the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and Vasily Petrenko. It was a must see and being free was not to be sniffed at! So sitting under a cloud laden sky we all eagerly awaited the beginning of the concert. The organisers said there were up to 10,000 people at the opening night and we were five of that 10,000!

The concert was presented by Jamie Crick of Classic FM fame and whom I thought was a little bit ditsy as he tripped over his words and also got the programme wrong on one occasion. The orchestra opened with the theme from James Bond and went on to Pirates of the Caribbean and the Ride of the Valkyries before culminating with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and at the crescendo a flurry of fireworks accompanied the rousing finale. The concert was enjoyed by all and we left the park feeling uplifted and happy.

On Saturday we left early for Manchester’s Trafford Centre where we spent 1.5 hours walking around the shopping mall. We were not shopping but talking pictures of the Elephant Parade, where there were 30 colourful painted elephants gracing the upper and lower levels of the mall. I loved all the varying artistic designs and also managed to purchase my own memento of the occasion though it knocked me back £45!

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I Did Not Cry…

Not a tear fell while I listened to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under the guidance of Vasily Petrenko as they performed for the first time in the Philharmonic’s history the entire 10th Symphony by Gustav Mahler. There were moments when I was overcome with emotion but I managed to hold it together and not embarrass myself or David.

Vasily Petrenko(1)

I was saddened to see that on both performances of Mahler’s 10th, the hall wasn’t full to capacity! I wonder what made the organisers put on two shows rather than one? I wish they had done the same for Mahler’s 8th last year, then I may not have been stuck at the back of the Anglican Cathedral and upsettingly witness someone in the audience keel over! However, as there were no heads in front of me, I had a great view of the orchestra and of Vasily in this special performance.

I listened to the broadcast of the first show on BBC Radio Three on Thursday and I, with a nice glass of Pinot Grigio succumbed to the wonderful orchestration of Mahler’s unfinished symphony, completed by Deryck Cooke. The Philharmonic’s command of the Adagio (1st movement) was simply breath-taking. I believe I had not heard it played with so much depth of emotion before. The sound was so clear even streaming through broadband!

And so for Saturday’s performance. David and I, wrapped up from the chilling wind that brought with it Spring snow the day before, made our way to the Philharmonic Hall. We gingerly watched for ice underfoot as we caught the 86 bus and was transported smoothly for our date with Mahler!

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I have been attending the Philharmonic in Liverpool for nearly 20 years now and have listened to Mahler being performed countless times. It was my first on hearing his 10th being played though. With excited butterflies in my tummy, the lights in the auditorium fell and the brilliant (almost too bright) spotlight lit up the orchestra as Vasily walked on stage with baton in hand. There was a collected intake of breath from the audience as the first bars of the Adagio were played. I love watching the sections of an orchestra as they come together and it’s only with Mahler symphonies that the percussion section seem to entertain most of all. David said he liked the soaring strings in the romantic Adagio the best. I noticed how Vasily would raise his hands to the heavens almost as if beseeching Mahler’s spirit to come amongst us as his music drifted into the ether. Norman Lebrecht in his blog post describes a conductor approaching a performance of Mahler’s 10th Symphony as ‘the maestro, for that hour-plus,’ has ‘to be Mahler.’ Therefore perhaps Vasily was indeed channelling the spirit of Mahler? During the two Scherzo’s Vasily seemed to take on the persona of a demented fiend, jerking about like a man possessed. He would raise his fist to the orchestra who in turn would challenge him in their playful audacity. As the drum of fate boomed around the auditorium the conductor seemed to shiver as if in fear. The only comic relief to be had was during the ländler where the orchestra played light-heartedly and Vasily shook his booty on the podium!

Then the soul tormenting Finale came. It’s a piece of music that usually renders me in tears. Thankfully this evening it wasn’t the case, though the screeching strings and then the soft sighing of the woodwind tugged at the heart. Catherine Jones of the Liverpool Echo in her review said there were some tonality issues, but none that could detract from the poignancy of the music being performed. Vasily seemed to have tightened up the brass section since the first performance and they played with unparalleled confidence. As the final note of Mahler’s 10th faded, Vasily paused while the rawness of the performance was absorbed by the audience. The young conductor fell back upon the rail of his podium as if overcome with emotion and sheer exhaustion of the piece. With baton lowered he invited the audience to show their appreciation, a few rose to their feet. Vasily came onto the podium twice more to accept praise where it was due. He also seemed subdued, placing his hand to his heart in gratitude. The applause was understated, perhaps due to the fact that Mahler’s 10th is a symphony largely forgotten or maybe the powerful emotions performed for over an hour subdued the audience? Either way they milled out of the hall silently, thoughtfully.

I really wish that the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic would release a recording of their rendition of Mahler’s 10th Symphony. I believe it was one of the best, if not the best I have heard it performed! Norman Lebrecht also mentioned in his blog that Vasily would be repeating his version of Mahler’s 10th ‘next year with the Philharmonia in London and the radio orchestra in Berlin,’ something to look forward to then.