The judges all earned their board and lodging today with a day off from the competition completely filled with masterclasses and consultations with thirsty oboists and teachers, and an orchestral panel discussion about how wind playing is seen as second class in Russia and how to raise its profile.
It was a chance for some people to talk about themselves a lot, to say how dreadful everything is, Russian style, and for others to try and focus on the problem.
Interesting thing about the 2nd class wind player musician thing here: apparently Piano and Violin only are see as the thoroughbreds and winds have been traditionally seen as rude, rural and vulgar. They are going to have to work hard and very intelligently to change this, but a problem I have is that when you have artists like Alexei Utkin, or Valery Popov, oboe and bassoon respectively, it rather disproves the rule.
Anyway I found myself speaking very angrily about the UK at the current moment, politically, which I didn’t intend to do, but it came out like that and I stand by it. Its the second wave of attacks on music services and provision since the 80s, both under conservative rule-but with a little help from their friends this time. I was so proud of my eldest son Alastair who is studying musical theatre at Arts Educational School in London for going to the protests in London yesterday but saddened, as was he, that idiots (not anarchists which somehow suggests they have a brain cell) ransacked the protest and made it unsafe for them.
The problem seems to me to be that on a national scale the Arts are understood as having a valuable contribution, even if the Arts Council is not, but on a more local level the more rural approach is that music services can be slashed and burned and there will be less fall out than if other services are. Its all about politics locally, not about the big picture. I wonder whether Mr Cameron’s 2 million pound question about ‘what makes us happy’ will include anything artistic at all. We wait to see. We also wait to see whether there will be any musicians to supply the orchestras in 10 years time.
I heard classes today by my fellow judges Laszlo Hadady and Alex Klein which I found deeply inspiring. I just melt when either of them play one note.
In my own class, amongst others, I taught 3 twelve year olds from Belarus and one from Moscow, who were brilliant. I must confess that I am deep down a little concerned that they may be being pushed and drilled rather, but time will tell; for now their freedom to play and their open hearts are completely inspiring to me.
I was made aware today of the thirst for information and contact with other musical cultures that exists here. We were all treated like rock stars and with the deepest respect. The intensity of the Russian gaze into one’s eyes is quite remarkable.
I have completely fallen in love with Moscow. This is my 3rd visit here and this time I see big changes, in the people as well as in the City. It is a truly great metropoli, and for what seems like the better. In its way its as great as London or New York, and we are also being taken to some really great restaurants! Tonight we feasted smoke free (for once) on gorgeous tapas style food and unlimited spicy Mulled Wine. We were joined by one of the star solo oboists from the Bolshoi, who had taken Alex Klein to see Wozzek there tonight. Stories came thick and fast about opera happenings, such as the horse at the Bolshoi who produced a 3 litre urination which was heading on a raked stage fast downhill for the prompt box, but which got diverted from there manually to the pit and INTO the actual 2nd bassoon in the pit in a great frothing flood; then a story about the late great oboist Pierre Pierlot, which may be apocryphal, but goes thus: Paris Opera, Carmen, first interval, Pierlot finds a donkey backstage and decides to, erm…..how can I put this delicately, manually ‘stimulate it’ just before the 2nd act starts. Donkey goes on with one and a half meters of stimulation and the audience laughs so hard the curtain has to be brought down. Its opera, baby, but not as we know it!
The 2nd round is tomorrow, with a horrendous and confusingly vague new set work. We are all looking forward to hearing what our choices will do, especially the 6 that got unanimous da’s from the Panel.