We reported earlier today about the rehearsal that Sir Colin took last month with a London amateur orchestra. We have since been in touch with the soloist at that session who, requesting anonymity, shared the circumstances of the extraordinary event.
Apparently, Sir Colin had been feeling a bit stronger and, remembering that he was due to conduct the Brahms concerto with Nikolai Znaider and the LSO, asked the soloist if he could rehearse the work with him and a chamber orchestra, composed of amateurs. Calls were made and people sneaked off work. ‘He was visibly frail,’ says my informant, ‘but the sincerity of his music-making and love for the Brahms (and Schubert Unfinished that followed) of course shone through….’
What did you learn from him? I asked.
‘Well his tempos were certainly slower than I’m used to…probably in part due to his being frail, but also I’m sure a connection with an older style of interpretation, when nothing was rushed and there was always time to make a phrase….that is something that can be overlooked these days I guess as we try to play faster and always metronomically.’
Did you challenge his tempi?
‘I did ask for one or two things to be a bit quicker, but as I wasn’t going to be the soloist for the gig it was a slightly unusual situation. I think everyone was just so glad to be there and trying to imbibe every ounce of music from him, so it was a very positive and uplifting afternoon, though of course sad… I am so grateful for the opportunity of getting to rehearse the Brahms with him, my tiny glimpse into the greatness of the man and musician.’
Quite apart from the poignancy of the occasion, I am struck by its intimacy. All through his working life, Sir Colin kept in touch with his roots – the grass roots of music making in London. It was the most fitting thing in the world that the last session of his life was spent working mostly with amateurs – men and women who, like himself, loved music as the greatest love of their lives. Sir Colin died last night, aged 85.
May he rest in well-deserved peace.