Salzburg Festival Blog 2 (24 July)

I rehearse with  my Mozarteum Orchestra in Orchesterhaus for Saturday’s opening Festakt. Not a lot in terms of minutes of music but as always it must be good. The versatility of the Mozarteum Orchestra is so impressive. Today we have to prepare two pieces from  Handel’s ‘Theodora’ for the Festakt; this repertoire, increasingly the preserve of specialist baroque orchestras, holds no terrors for our players  and very quickly we develop a well-shaped style and baroque sonority.

I think the ability to develop a composer/style specific sound-world is as much a defining characteristic of today’s best orchestras as an orchestra’s  claims to  a unique and distinctive colour.   Perhaps the  balance of these concepts is what has shifted in the last twenty years. We at the Mozarteum have, I think,  a distinctive sound when playing our homonymous composer (so much so that a prominent English critic recognised  it after five bars of K488 on BBC Radio3!), but also our style has  a strong 18th-century feel for colour and phrasing.

These thoughts were running through my mind as I wandered over to the Festival House to organise my tickets for Saturday’s performance. In the office I caught  a few minutes of Harnoncourt rehearsing the Vienna Philharmonic in Schubert’s Great C major Symphony. This inspirational man has probably done more than any other single musician to change the face of classical music-making. He speaks  with erudition and  wisdom and performs with sincerity and humility.

For my own part, I remember the first time I heard one of his Bach cantata recordings (I think it was Cantata no.43); it may sound cliched, but for me it was a revelation that Baroque music could sound so vivid and be so powerfully shaped. I envy musicians who work with him on a regular basis, as his rehearsal process is, I  think, as important as the point of arrival in performance.

Lunch at Triangel with Joe Kaiser (Septimius in our Theodora) and his adorable family. His two young boys are effervescent and wanting every minute of Joe’s attention in the few hours he is not rehearsing.

In the evening is the general rehearsal in the Felsenreitschule for the Festakt. We are all mightily  impressed by counter-tenor Terry Weh’s beautiful singing. He is the cover fpr the formidable Bejun Mehta as Didymus and, if he continues like this, is heading for a similar stellar career. The Mozarteum players are excited about our immediate reinvitation to Japan and Beijing and our Bruckner 3rd Symphony recording’s seclection as Editor’s Choice in the renowned ‘Gramophone’ magazine.

Tess and Sam (and school friend Steven) have cycled in to meet me and my agent Jonathan Groves for supper. Jonathan (whose own father was the distinguished British conductor Sir Charles Groves) has just attended the Ring in Bayreuth and was full of superlatives for Christian Thielemann’s conducting and thrilled by the staging (at least ) of the Bregenz Festival’s new ‘Aida’.