Wonderful to be reunited with Mitsuko Uchida again for this the last of our current set of projects with such a tremendous musician. Visiting artists really set the tone for MCO and Mitsuko Uchida’s exuberance, generosity of spirit and extraordinary refinement make for a very special atmosphere. We know each other well now, and it is incredibly rewarding to be exploring and playing together in the confidence of that relationship.
This was an odd tour for me as for the first time in my MCO career I was working from home. It is one of the defining strengths of the orchestra, for which members and their families make some sacrifices, that whenever we meet we are largely all there together, away from home and living in an MCO bubble for the duration of the project. This creates an intensity and focus which is hard to replicate in other circumstances. For me though this time, Perugia was an hour’s drive away, having uprooted from London as a family last year to come and live in Italy for a year. And so this new world of remote, rural Umbria and a hilltop eyrie suddenly mingled via an unlikely commute with the different intensity of MCO, an exhilarating though sometimes bewildering contrast.
Perugia is a magnificent town and the theatre there very beautiful. Such a privilege to be rehearsing and performing somewhere which is aesthetically so very confident and at ease with itself; nice too to sit in the hot spring sun eating takeaway pizza on the giant steps of the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, absorbing the splendour of it all.
It was as always in the Mozart concertos such a pleasure to hear the brilliant MCO winds sparring so vivaciously with Mitsuko Uchida, and to feel their mutual appreciation of each other. These are familiar pieces by now but it is a luxury in a way to be able to use that familiarity to create more space and responsiveness. The strings had their day with the Bartók Divertimento, a very satisfying choice in this context, having wonderful clarity, structural rigour and very direct impact. It has been so enjoyable exploring this piece as string group, relishing the opportunity to realise it collectively.
This was a particular thrill in the extraordinary Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. Just as the Italian architecture had inspired in Perugia and Treviso, here a special energy reverberated in the walls, an astonishing hall and delightful place to be. A huge capacity which somehow still manages to be very intimate, and a wonderful open sound, with great clarity and depth. What a special way to end this part of our collaboration with Mitsuko Uchida, whom we now have to wait until January 2019 to see again. We will miss her deeply!
Photos: Geoffroy Schied / Mahler Chamber Orchestra / Martin Leo Schmidt