Sunday, 16 November 2008


Between Liverpool and London – once again… It’s been quite a lot of travels in a last few weeks all around the world, and all around the UK – yesterday, for instance, I’ve been conducting in Carlisle, and today going down to London for two rehearsals there. And tomorrow my beloved Brahms 4 back in Liverpool…and again to London for concert in Barbican on Tuesday!
Nevertheless, I prefer to be busy, rather then not doing anything. Since concert in Amsterdam (when I’d written last blog) I’ve been a week in Budapest – this was very interesting and quite unusual for me, I couldn’t understood any words of Hungarian language! It’s amazing, that country in a middle of Europe kept their language almost clear from invasions of neighbours! I found Budapest once again beautiful city on Danube, and since I’ve been there about 10 years ago, a lot has been changed. It’s very interesting mixture of post-communist and European-union things in society there and if you know how to explore, you may find wonderful things and contrasts there. But what really surprised me, is that St.Petersburg (please, don’t think that all Russia!) are much further on democratic-capitalists reforms, for good and for bad! Festival Orchestra, with whom I’ve played in Budapest, is fantastic – probably the best orchestra in Hungary – and have a very different structure, musicians have 2-years-contracts and re-audition after it, they paid by hours/days, and administration of orchestra have right to replace them for a few weeks per year with freelancers. There are also few more differences. This Orchestra is 25 years old, and it’s been first time for them to play 5th Prokofiev Symphony, and they’ve done very well – even in a relatively small (but beautiful!) F.Liszt Hall. Janine Jensen as always, played with virtuosity and it’s been a pleasure again to perform with her!
Right after I’ve been back to Liverpool for one day to rehears with RLPO before touring in Holland and Germany. Tour was extremely successful, audience get rough at the end of performances and musicians tested a lot of different beers ))). Liverpudlians also had a chance to listen to the same programme, and I’ve got a lot of great responses from concerts of Tchaikovsky. I’m glad that we kept freshness, playing his Symphony for about 9 times in a last few months, and last concerts been probably the best!
This week was also very tough for orchestra – two big symphonies, Bruckner 4 and Brahms 4 in two days in a row! And both hasn’t been performed for quite a few years! So, I think they would need a bit of rest afterwards, but it’s operas (completely new music for them) in a next week… I’m glad that Bruckner got a full hall and very warm reception – think this concert had a very special spirit in it, and beauty and lightness of Beethoven with Paul Lewis in first half did a great contrast for catholic-romantic research of Bruckner. We will play Brahms 4 again tomorrow, and I wouldn’t like to say anything before it, rather then very much looking forward to this Sunday afternoon!
One more thing, which I can’t miss in my blog: at the end of October delegation of RLPO had visited House of Common with a special event, dedicated to our educational programme. It’s been very well attended by the Lords and MP, and I’m very glad, that we’ve given a lot of information about what’s going on in Liverpool and particularly in work with children and youngsters. Everyone been very impressed in Westminster, and I think personally, that this is one of the most important parts of our work and progress – invite and encourage as many of young people as possible and give them a chance to be part of classical culture!

Sunday, 19 October 2008


Well, it’s quite a few days, since I’d written last message… Good excuse is that I’ve been extremely busy doing concerts in Royal Albert Hall and Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral, and then had a long and intensive journey to Cincinnati, Dallas and finally back to Europe –at the moment in Amsterdam.
First things first – week in UK was very exciting, Classic FM concert in London been “the best show in last few years” as directors of FM declared. I would say it’s been a very good show despite of horrible travel day before (took me 6 hours in Virgin Train, some idiot opened fire on trains, and we spent 3,5 hours in Nuneaton), some rude jokes of presenter… but soloists this time (Kate Royal, Alfie Boe amongst them) been excellent, and their dresses been VERY exciting ;)). Fireworks at the end, as usual, made everyone happy and deaf.
Verdi in Cathedral, it’s been very special and spiritual event, if you missed it, you really missed something. Choruses did stunning job, soloists “top class” and well shaped orchestra plus atmosphere and huge audience – all made this evening remarkable! For me personally – I conducted Requiem first time in my life, while sung it as a boy and as a teen more than 10 times, I thought about this concert for a months and enjoyed every minute of performance!
Next morning I flew to US (first time I’ve quite liked long flight, because of opportunity to sleep and study quietly after few crazy weeks!), Cincinnati is true American city with all good and bad about it. German immigrants built a very nice and big (3500 seats!) theatre, but all their houses around it now half-abandoned, so, of course, there are big problem with audience: I’ve got half-a-hall for two concerts with popular programme, Rachmaninov and Shostakovich, but producers said it’s very good by attendance! Actually, I’m always amazed by American cities – they looks very powerful in downtowns and picturesque with its modern stadiums, concert halls, highways and statues, but it’s such a different world if you go closer! Office workers driving in their cars inside skyscrapers, parks there, go up to their offices, taking lunch also within building in “food courts” and driving home or shopping areas outside city. If you walking downtown in a daytime, you’ll see people, mainly with very little, who, I suppose, sell some bad things or ask for a change. At the same time if you go inside a building, it’s “golden and posh” there! And distance between “well done” area and “poor” is just 20 meters… Anyway, back to music, concerts had a very positive review, orchestra looked happy and satisfied.
If you heard, that in Texas everything is big – it’s almost true! Dallas starts from airport, which have 8 (?) terminals and distance of about 30 miles from city centre. If you ask for a cappuccino, don’t choose large, please! I did once, its size of two pints!!! Jaap van Zweden, chief conductor of Dallas Symphony, was very kind and offered me to stay in his flat (while he did his debut in Chicago), and what a flat it is! I’ve been lost there on the first day, couldn’t find way to my bedroom )), and it’s not only big, but very stylish and modern with all gadgets (I didn’t discovered even half of them!). Playing Heldenleben four times in three-and-a-half days is very exhausting for everyone, especially if you couple this in programme with Sibelius and Stravinsky, but I did enjoy performances of this great piece – also did it for a first time. Orchestra have stunning soloists, great potential and if they are even more eager to improve themselves, they will be amongst the very top orchestras in US!
This week I’m in Holland, working with Radio Philharmonic Orchestra, concert is tomorrow in Concertgebouw, I think it’ll be absolutely great – feel very strong connection with orchestra and chorus is one of the best in Europe!
P.S. Concert in Amsterdam went really well, with a lot of enthusiasm from audience…

Tuesday, 30 September 2008


It’s Sunday and I’m going down to London – so, plenty of time to write something!

Last two weeks have been very intensive, recordings, concerts in Liverpool, Zaragoza, Prague and St.Asaph, interviews (as usual, the media suddenly remember about you before first night of the season and than forget again) and meetings, meetings…
Always quite tricky to “wake up” orchestra after vacation, especially if you are recording and every minute is extremely valuable, but in the first days of September we managed to make a very good recording (I hope!) and even finished half-an-hour early - which, of course, got a lot of appreciation from members of orchestra ;)
Then it’s been “The special opening of the season” at the Phil and I’m glad that inspiration and emotions had been with us on stage on this night. I found on the first day of rehearsals, that the music of Prokofiev, his style and philosophy were not too familiar for the orchestra, perhaps because this symphony hasn’t been played for quite a few years (surely it deserves more often performing!).
But on the second day something in the minds of musicians started to move in the right direction and for the concert everyone was fired up! Paul Lewis played great (as usual!) and the piece by Ken Hesketh. Graven Image, sounded to me better than when we played it in the Albert Hall at the Proms because of the acoustic.
Prague… I love this city! Even in its current condition, when quite a lot of facades need reconstruction, and from another side a lot of ugly modern buildings been established in the last few years, this city definitely has a spirit (don’t mix it with Becherovka or Pilsner! J) and a charm. The weather was very cold, but I walked quite a lot and, as usual in Vyshehrad, tried to imagine the life of the people there centuries ago. Our concerts had a great response. There’s a good tradition for Liverpudlians to travel to RLPO concerts in other cities, so we felt a great support! Even in the very tricky acoustic of Dvorak Hall and a complicated travel schedule, the quality of the concerts has been extremely high. And for me it’s been a very rare opportunity to watch the orchestra from the side, in one of their other concerts – a lot of interesting moments to discover!

Yesterday, I was absolutely charmed by St. Asaph – glorious weather, beautiful hills, river, tidy village… I’d love to live there if it would be 10 miles from Liverpool J And they run a quite decent music festival, which we opened and BBC NOW will play the final concert at the end of next week. Even if the Cathedral is a bit too small for Tchaikovsky (after the concert I heard the chat “Fantastic!” - “Great! But it’ll ring in my ears for the next two weeks!”), the enthusiasm of the audience, they were eager for music created a very special atmosphere.

And, finally, today, it was Open Day at the Phil (lucky orchestra, due to working restrictions got a free day and enjoyed the sunshine in their homes!), where I did open an rehearsal with the Phil Choir and had my picture taken with different people at the Hope Street Feast! I enjoy this festival every year because of the special atmosphere, the opportunity to invite new listeners to the Phil and the great farmers’ market - you can buy great food there… and I think now is to good time for ale and pastries which I’ve got there!

Friday, 5 September 2008

Back to the UK

Back in the sky – time to write. Last two weeks been quite busy, but spending them in Spain I felt “this is vacations now!!!”

La Coruna and Galicia were very hospitable as usual (even if in front of hotel where I stayed, were a lot of roadworks, and, surprisingly, at the week-ends!), seafood is amazing, wine is wine, sun is sun and Atlantic… it’s absolutely fabulous there, especially at sunset! I’ve been amongst the very few persons who did swim in the sea – water temperature of 18 degrees is not for Spaniards, I think))) And when quite strong waves produced a red flag on the beach, lifeguards tried to “rescue” me from the water, but after my few words in Russian just wave their hands!

Soloists in this production of Macbeth have been just great! Maria Guleghina and Jelko Lucic as the main heroes were brilliant, and it’s been a pleasure to work with them. Orchestra of Castilla y Leon also made a decent job, and at the end got a big ovation with my bow. Even though there were some musical challenges for the local amateur choir (I would call them “coro amistoso”);), critics hailed this production enormously with “fantastico y fenomenal” reviews. For me important side of these performances is that Verdi’s style was clearly there, and that’s not often happening!

Straight after that and a day of rehearsals in Valladolid (hometown of Orchestra Castilla y Leon), there was a concert yesterday with Paul Lewis in Barcelona. Chief editor of cultural part of “Lavanguardia”, leading catalan newspaper, after a few glasses of prosecco, promised me a great article on Saturday. Will see)).
Always amazed how different is Spain! Very smooth and humid climate in La Coruna (looks a little bit like if you moved Liverpool a few thousands kilometres south – rain almost everyday, high tides, very humid, but warmer, +21-26 in a daytime), very dry and sunny in Valladolid with a huge difference of temperatures for day and night, and warm and “oily” air of Barcelona… And a concert in the beautiful hall of Zaragoza will take place on Monday.

Nevertheless, it’s back to UK now, and this Spanish “feel of vacation, even if you work everyday” is almost disappearing. It’s still a little bit of a mystery for me, why Brits are using and spending so much energy in their lives? It seems to me, that a lot of questions and processes, which can be automatically resolved, steal a lot of time and attention in British society. What do you think?

Friday, 22 August 2008

Welcome to the blog!

OK, need to start somewhere… well, lets try

First of all, I’ve started this blog to give for you a better idea of how it is - you know - “the life of the star” ;)))

But really, I thought you might find it quite interesting, those of you who’ve never been to, or maybe are planning to go to the places I’m travelling to with work engagements. Finally, it might be very helpful to know “the view from the side” on your life and life of society.

I’m writing this first blog on the plane from Liverpool to Madrid, surrounded by young families with kids, going off for their holidays in Spain, and feel a little alien in my business suit in this company.

Nevertheless, it’s August and I’m off to conduct a production of Verdi’s opera, Macbeth for the next two weeks or so in La Coruna in Spain.

A very busy season with the Liverpool Phil ended with our performance at the Proms. I’ve since been touring with the European Union Youth Orchestra in Italy and Germany, so now I’m expecting a little bit of sunshine together with plenty of rehearsals).

A year ago, I conducted La Boheme at the same festival in Spain. I had a few struggles with the “primadonna” in that production who skipped two rehearsals due to “bad mood and mosquitoes in the night” and afterwards was insisting that I didn’t know the opera (which I’ve conducted quite a few times in my life!).

Hope this time it’ll be smoother – at least I can speak Russian with Lady Macbeth! And very much looking forward to the great cuisine of Galicia: pulpo a la gallego (Galicia’s signature dish made with octopus) and good Albarinho wine wait for me there. You should try it!

Oops, “fasten your seat belts”! We coming down to land in Barajas, so I must switch off my laptop. Please, don’t hesitate to write to me if you have any questions – I can’t promise to answer them immediately, but will try to do as many as I can!