Philharmonia Memories

The Philharmonia Orchestra did a lot of travelling to promote their recordings. Walter Legge, the founder and artistic director had said that the orchestra needed to make one tour of France, one of Italy, one of Germany, and one the USA per year besides tours of the British Isles. The tours were badly paid at minimum rates and some of the players tried to get out of them only to be reprimanded by Jane Withers, the manager, saying, “Have you no loyalty?”. The orchestra management certainly had no loyalty to its players. One notable case was of Cecil James, the very fine first bassoonist who received his dismissal on a Christmas Day, and, of course, there were many others – Legge got rid of violinists more often than he changed his shirt.

We played one concert at La Scala, Milan, every year and I always stayed at the apartment of a Signora della Rosa. It was a grand place, with gold taps in the bathroom, and was situated in a genteel suburb of Milan. My stand partner asked me if the Signora could accommodate him too, and she agreed.

It was a good distance to La Scala and I usually caught a tram, so one night, after eating a good meal at a restaurant strongly recommended by the Signora we set out in what we thought was in good time for our concert. We waited for what seemed to be an eternity, and I enquired of one of the tram drivers about our tram. He told me it had been delayed, but should be along shortly. I told Brooks that maybe we should take a cab, but he thought we were still going to be on time. The journey seemed to be endless and we arrived at La Scala just as the clock was striking the hour.

Von Karajan was in the wings, waiting to go on stage, and after a hurried apology, we were ready to play.

To be late for a concert is a musician’s nightmare.

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Published in: on March 23, 2007 at 1:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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