Sitting in on a Philharmonia rehearsal

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As many of you will know, the world-famous Philharmonia has a residency at the Marlowe Theatre, giving five concerts in the 2012-2013 season. Last Saturday they performed Elgar’s Enigma Variations which the University Symphony Orchestra will also be playing in December, and 21 student and staff members had the amazing privilege of being allowed to sit in on the Philharmonia’s rehearsal in the afternoon.

Had my Phil ?

It was fascinating to see how they rehearsed, first of all running the whole piece, and then going back over certain passages to double check speeds etc. Unlike the University orchestra, they never had to sort out any wrong notes!!  We then had the extra treat of hearing them rehearse Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto with their soloist/conductor Michael Collins – an amazing player and the precision and rapport between the players was extraordinary. Ten of us then had tickets to attend the actual concert in the evening, and it was so interesting to see how all the players raised their game to create electrifying performances!

”It was a fascinating experience to be able to watch the Philharmonia Orchestra in rehearsal and then in the concert,” observes first-year Victoria, clarinettist with the University Orchestra. ”It was also interesting that the parts that they went over in Elgar’s Enigma Variations in the rehearsal were some of the parts that we had been working on in the University Symphony Orchestra. As a clarinettist I particularly enjoyed watching Michael Collins not only play but also conduct Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, and it surprised me to hear that the embellishments he used in the repeated sections in the rehearsal were different to those he used in the concert!”

Whilst first-year flautist Alex says, ”It was a wonderful experience and so interesting to see how the orchestra’s playing and demeanor all changes at the evening concert compared to in the rehearsals.”

We are extremely grateful to the Michael Collins and the Philharmonia Orchestra for allowing us to attend this closed rehearsal, and to Lucinda, their Education Trainee, for organising everything so efficiently.

About Daniel Harding

Head of Music Performance, University of Kent: pianist, accompanist and conductor: jazz enthusiast.
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