I am very much looking forward to returning to the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra for my second visit. My first was many years ago – more years ago than I care to admit. I was playing the other Haydn concerto – in C major – with the orchestra under the direction of its then artistic leader, the late, much-missed Iona Brown. I’m afraid that my dominant memory of that evening is one of fear, panic and despair. Iona had very kindly put me on in the second half of the programme, which is always nice; but in this case, I just had not got over the jet-lag, and I felt that my brain was closing down for the night well before I went onstage. I went out into the night as the orchestra played the symphony in the first half, and breathed in copious amounts of smog, hoping that it would wake me up. It didn’t. I walked onstage in a state of frozen dread, sure that I would forget the music and have to walk off-stage midway, to a cacophony of cat-calls and hisses. Thank goodness, that didn’t happen; I got through it, and people even seemed to enjoy it! At the dinner afterwards (no matter how exhausted a musician may be, we still have to eat after concerts – an absolute necessity!) Iona turned to me. ‘That’s amazing, Steven – I’ve never seen anyone look so relaxed coming on stage!’ If she had but known…

However, I’ve now been here in California for some ten days, so hopefully the lag will have past before I tread the boards for these concerts. And I’m definitely succumbing to the magic of LA: having begun my trip at one of my favorite houses in the world, the home of my friends Aaron Mendelssohn and Marcia Adelstein, who run the Maestro Foundation (for whom I gave a recital a few days after I arrived, with Ya-Fei Chuang) and then given a class at the impressive Colburn School of Music, I went to San Francisco (a little-known, rather sun-deprived city on the north of California – you may not have heard of it) for concerts with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra under Nic McGegan. (It seems to be my time for playing with Scottish conductors – both Nic and Douglas Boyd are old friends, as well as being wonderful musicians.) Now, as I write these immortal words, I am preparing to come back to LA, where I hope to do many things, apart from the little matter of playing one of the most challenging of all cello concertos. I plan to see many friends (including the daughter and son-in-law of my grandfather’s favourite piano pupil in Vienna from the 1930s); and my girlfriend Joanna (who is coming over for the week) and I are going to visit Bill Marx, the son of my hero of heroes, Harpo – that will be a thrill. I hope also to examine the Piatigorsky archive at the Colburn School. In fact, if fate hadn’t intervened, I would have been living in LA for a few years in my late teens (ie at least two years ago). I was all set to come to study with Piatigorsky, when, alas, the great man died. At least I got to meet him several times, and fell completely under the spell of his irresistible charisma.

But I shall also be practicing Haydn! Papa Haydn demands a lot of attention – all of which is fully rewarded when we start playing those glorious, life-affirming melodies. What a composer! I’m sure that he and Harpo would have been firm friends – perhaps now they are?

highlights:
S E S S I O N spiva

Produced in collaboration with Four Larks, SESSION featured the world premiere of The Body Overcome by Derrick Spiva Jr, hindustani vocalist Saili Oak, a US premiere by composer Juan Pablo Contreras and works by Conor Brown, Salina Fisher and Reena Esmail.

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LA Orchestra Fellowship

The LA Orchestra Fellowship is a two-year orchestra intensive for musicians on violin, viola, and cello.

Fellows are mentored in chamber and orchestral performance and gain invaluable experience while training and playing alongside Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra musicians, faculty at USC Thornton and mentor members of the Inner City Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles.