Busman's holiday...

By Maxine Kwok Adams  -  04 October 2016

I perform over a hundred concerts a year with the LSO so attending a concert of an evening is probably not my ideal way to relax. Finding it somewhat like a busman's holiday I feel more comfortable being part of it all onstage than as a silent spectator in the audience. The times I have attended concerts in London and abroad are invariably to support a friend performing a concerto or recital. 

Maxine enjoying the limelight...

I was however cajoled into attending a concert last week given by the famed Mariinsky Orchestra conducted by someone I was very familiar with, Valery Gergiev. Now the concert ticked many boxes for me, an orchestra I had never heard before, an all-Prokofiev programme, a favourite violin concerto and a chance to watch former LSO principal conductor Gergiev from a different perspective. Now I admit when my friend said to me, "Do you fancy going to a concert in half an hour?" I wasn't exactly launching myself at the Cadogan Hall box office, what with all the temptations of delicious restaurants within drooling distance, but I realised I hadn't attended a concert in quite some time and had never been an audience member at Cadogan. 

The hall has a somewhat intimate feel to it in comparison to the Barbican and I wondered how such a big programme would fare. Well I realised straight away when the Mariinsky filed on, they had brought lesser forces - smaller string sections that fit comfortably onto the stage. This in no way detracted from the repertoire they performed, what an incredibly rich sound the orchestra made!

I have lost count of the number of concerts Gergiev has conducted with the LSO in London and abroad in the last decade, suffice to say I know his looks and mannerisms on the podium pretty well... Obviously as a performer you are looking at the conductor ('as often as you can' for any conductors reading this...) but in reality with all the notes you have to play, it's a cursory glance here and there. How fascinating to be able to watch a conductor without stress from an audience perspective for long periods of time and see the dance-like movements, the fluttery fingers and gestures to other sections I often missed with my head buried in the music.

Interestingly enough a couple of LSO members who hadn't been on our recent concerts came to watch the Verdi Requiem as part of the Barbican audience in September. They expressed surprise at how much they loved it and remarked how different the sound was from within the orchestra compared to out in the auditorium. Now this is something I promised myself I would do periodically but have failed miserably. Playing in an orchestra you often get overwhelmed by the sound of your own section and only hear the music from one perspective. On rare concerts off, it probably isn't your first port of call to enter the concert hall from the punter's entrance but I recommend that anyone in the profession hears their own orchestra out in the concert hall every so often in order to fully appreciate the homogenous sound rather than just that of yourself and your desk partner!

I loved the Mariinsky concert and left feeling completely uplifted after Prokofiev 5 but in all honesty, I still wished I'd been performing onstage. I guess I still have a way to go before becoming a true concert-goer or maybe I should just realise I'm an onstage diva! 

About Maxine Kwok Adams

Fashion correspondent and violinist of the London Symphony Orchestra

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