Living Toys in Budapest- Part 3

On 29 January 2011, London Sinfonietta performed for the first time in the Palace of Arts in Budapest. Included in the programme was Living Toys by Thomas Adès, which has a particularly interesting part for trumpet.

Alistair Mackie, Principal trumpet of the London Sinfonietta, describes the concert day:

Saturday 29th Jan.

5.30am.

In a taxi to Gatwick-it’s a cold dark morning and I find it impossible to contemplate the reality that I’ve got to do a concert tonight. Budapest seems like another world from here.

7.20am

I’m sat on the plane which was due to leave at 7.40am. The captain has just found a scratch near the rear door. He suspects that stairs have been pushed too hard against the plane and engineers have been summoned to check for any structural damage. Possible two hour delay. Great.

9.45am

Finally taking off, two hours late. Wonderful.

1.15pm

We’ve landed and are taxiing to the terminal. The rehearsal started at 1pm and has to finish by 3.30pm as there is another concert in the hall before ours. It doesn’t look like we will manage a complete run through of tonight’s concert.

5pm

By the time we got our bags and had been driven to the hall we were really pushed for time. We did manage to play through the first piece in the concert. It’s the only other piece I’m in tonight and is called “At First Light”. It’s by George Benjamin and is a great piece with a brilliant high trumpet part. The Adès piece is 17 minutes long and was rehearsed for 7 min before we had to vacate the hall. I’d like to have done more, to say the least, but at least my lip is fresh!

Sunday 30th Jan.

The concert went well, better than I could have hoped. The group played with fantastic energy and the Adès, which closed the concert, felt really good. It seemed like a real performance and the people around me played with such panache that for long periods of time I did manage to forget about the technical terrors of the piece and just enjoyed the spirit and excitement of the moment. I love it when it’s like that, it’s why I’m a musician. However long you prepare, and for however long afterwards you retain the memories, music is an art which only really exists in the moment it’s played. There were some great moments last night. I think sometimes that as works grow old, performers become more and more able to master their challenges-The Rite of Spring for example is now a standard repertoire piece for most orchestras. The Adès, like most of the music the London Sinfonietta play, is still new to all of us and has certainly not grown into the comfortable experience of a repertoire piece. There is a vibrant edge to the performance of new works that brings with it a unique excitement. It makes me feel immensely privileged to be part of this amazing group.

At the end of the show I felt in a bit of an exhausted daze. I think people sometimes think I’m disappointed or flat when I’m like that. I’m not, it’s just my response to the intensity of a show like last night’s.  We had a party afterwards at a flat Mark van de Wiel keeps in Budapest. It was great fun, lots of Hungarian champagne and everybody in noisy high spirits.

I’m on the plane back to London now. I’ve got a rehearsal this afternoon for a tour to Spain that starts tomorrow morning. It’s also my wife’s birthday today so we’ve managed to squeeze in a birthday meal with the family at a nice Italian restaurant. Although it’s been a hectic couple days, I feel good. It was an experience to tackle the Adès and however many more times I play it, I will never forget my first attempt in Budapest.

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