At Royal Festival Hall on Thursday evening for a performance by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra (Haydn Op. 104 London Symphony and Bruckner 9 – two last symphonies).
Excellent performance, superbly conducted by Zubin Mehta who conducted both pieces without a score (or a guard rail).
But I was most struck by this …
The Orchestra were serious people, playing serious music. An average age in the 40s, I’d estimate. These are serious musicians and the rules of the Vienna Philharmonic include that anyone who wants to play with them has to play with the Vienna Opera Orchestra for three years first. They were expertly, and fairly grimly producing music of excellence – doing that thing that great orchestras do of conjuring out of a startling number of simultaneous instruments something of great beauty which is thrown away into thin air. Like a painter painting on a flowing river.
Now, one of the musicians looked about 12, which as I age I am beginning to realise means he was probably in his early 20s. And he, he was grinning. Damn it all there he was playing with the Vienna Philharmonic surrounded by this fabulous music, being conducted by Zubin Mehta to a packed auditorium in London and he was smiling. He was happy. He was having so much fun that he couldn’t help but convey it. Packing his case and trogging to the airport probably wasn’t fun. Practising incessantly may not be that great. Having to play music you don’t particularly care for, can’t be much fun…
But right there, right then, for him that was clearly what it was all for and he didn’t mind showing it – or couldn’t help showing it.
And I enjoyed it more as a result. And I wondered whether the rest of the orchestra were enjoying it this much too.
Work is compatible with fun, at least occasionally, and it’s wearying when we don’t show it, and energising when we do.