Letter from Slovenia
  Friday, 26 October 2007  

It is my last day in Ljubljana and I cannot believe how fast the time has flown! I arrived last Sunday and took a couple of days holiday and once again I felt so at home here. Ljubljana is really a wonderful place to be and the people are incredibly friendly. The town is beautifully kept with fabulous buildings and far too many nice shops!


My work commitments began on Tuesday afternoon when I had a meeting with my conductor, Charles Olivieri-Munroe. It is always a pleasure to meet a new conductor and find that you both share the same concept of the concerto. I began to look forward all the more to my two concerts with the orchestra. On Wednesday we had our first rehearsal and I was greeted by the orchestra with tremendous warmth, and felt that I had returned to old friends. The rehearsal was very successful and the orchestra played with such sensitivity and finesse. The Mendelssohn can sometimes sound heavy and lumpy but not in the hands of these wonderful musicians. That night I was taken for dinner by Tim, the British Ambassador, whom I had met on my first visit, and the other guest was Keith, who is very involved in the business community here. We were all treated to an incredible fish repast, with a mixed starter of the lightest fish mousse and seafood salad. There then followed the tastiest mussels that I have ever eaten - I could not imagine how the chef had prepared them as there was no sauce, but just oodles of taste! Then we had something that looked like a cross between a dragon and a fish and was exotically orange in colour - again prepared exquisitely and washed down with amazing Slovenian wine. Tim and Keith were wonderful company and the conversation flowed as enjoyably as the wine!

The following morning there was another rehearsal, which started rather later than planned as there was a big power cut in the hall! This was more of a problem than usual, as the concert was being televised!



Anyway, the problem was fixed and the rehearsal continued without a hitch. I had a quiet afternoon to rest and prepare for the evening, and then went to the hall for the concert. I remember how enjoyable it was to play in the Cankarjev Dom last time and this occasion was the same - Charles is the kind of musician who clearly relishes performance and the orchestra were also giving of their very best. It was a delight to make music and the audience gave us an enthusiastic response. I did a quick change and went to listen to the second half which was Tchaikovsky Suite in G, a piece I did not know. I was very impressed by how the orchestra changed their whole sound to reflect the completely different style of the Tchaikovsky and Charles was quite electrifying, building the pace up to a fabulous conclusion. I must also say that I loved the violin solo of the concertmaster, whose sweet sound carried exquisitely in the hall.

Today I had breakfast with Charles and then spent an hour or so chatting to some of the orchestral musicians plus some students who wanted me to talk to them about life as a concert performer, as well as technique and practice etc. I am struck by the openness of attitude of the musicians here and it was lovely to have a chance to talk more directly to them and get to know some of them a bit better. After that I had a bite of lunch and a final coffee in my favourite coffee shop - Cafetino Kavarna. They have got to know me well from my visits and know how to make me coffee EXACTLY the way I like it. Anyone who knows me well, will understand that this is no mean task! I was very touched as my final coffee was a present "on the house".

I have only a couple of hours now to get myself ready for the performance which is broadcast live on radio so will leave it here. Tomorrow will be a busy day too as I am flying back to London and playing tomorrow night in Leeds.

So I'm off for a nap!