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Election Night Mahler

Never have I been so glad of long hours in rehearsals. Shut away in Maida Vale Studios (Election Day) and backstage at the Barbican (The Day After) phones were switched off, internet was inaccessible, and music had to take precedence, come what may. The evening after a fraught national all-nighter, we weren’t expecting much of an audience at the BBC Symphony’s concert. But in fact a sizeable bunch of people turned up, several of them saying to me “I just had to stop watching TV”.

Entering the concert in despair and depression, many of us left in a mood of un-looked for hopefulness, joy even, after stand-in conductor Gergely Madaras had led us so genially through Mahler’s First Symphony. At the apotheosis of the last moment, the eight horns ringed round the back suddenly, and with great dignity, stood to play their unison theme. The magnificence of the gesture on such an evening brought tears to the eyes, and you have to love a radio orchestra that behaves like this.

I was also happy to have made a musical contribution to the programme, thanks to Nicholas Daniel, who turned up to give the London premiere of my Oboe Concerto. Unusually for one of my own performances, I had a very good time throughout. It’s such a rare experience as a composer to sit in the hall knowing that your soloist is completely on top of the material, and there really is nothing to worry about. The oboe can’t honestly be called a charismatic instrument, but the stardust that Nick brings along with him persuades his hearers to go along with whatever he does. My new year resolution for 2020: go to more concerts.




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