- Maurizio Pollini playing Schoenberg’s Five Piano Pieces as an encore at the Edinburgh Festival…. These pieces suddenly emerged, butterfly-like, from their atonal cocoon, as the most beautiful ever written. (I was on the front row, trying not to cry. Having just learned to play them – yet not in any way like this… – it felt like the most personal of messages.)
- My much-missed friend, Michael Rippon, shredding every sinew in his body (and mine) – stretching his Rembrandt-like features, and remarkably sonorous voice, to the limits (and possibly beyond) – projecting (the also much-missed) Maxwell Davies’ Eight Songs for a Mad King with such savage, yet empathetic intensity, accompanied by the composer’s own group, The Fires of London. I had not known that music could be made to do this: to transcend the bounds of theatre and emotional evisceration. Never before or since has such a work hurt so much… – and yet delighted me with its commitment and originality.
- Marin Alsop unleashing the full powers of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in Elgar’s Second Symphony. I was sat behind the brass and percussion. The balance was therefore so very wrong. But, finally, finally, I knew that this was how this greatest of symphonies must be performed. (That I got a hug from Alsop, subsequently, for weeping from first bar to last, only reinforces the memory, of course. But she is the only conductor I know – apart from David – who personally thanks every single member of the orchestra, afterwards: wandering the stage with a smile and that sincere personal touch.)
- Finally, of course, I have to mention David again… – but with the Cheltenham Symphony Orchestra – digging hard and deep into the very heart of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony…
(Photographs by Patrick Allen)