Friday 25 November 2005

Sightreading surprises

There's a nice story in The Times in the birthday interview with Sir Charles Mackerrass (link), in which he describes recently conducting the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in Elgar's Enigma Variations and the orchestra had never played it before, so they had to sight-read it and Mackerras had to tell them how the piece went.

I remember in the 1980's when I sang in the London Philharmonic Choir, we did a performance of Mendelssohn's Elijah. It was not a piece I'd sang, but I had heard quite a few performances as a student in Manchester, and subsequently in Scotland. I was surprised to find that not only had the choir not sung the piece in the life-time of any of the present members, but the majority of the singers had never heard it and had no idea how it went. They soon got the idea, but it was fascinating being at the first rehearsal with the choir struggling a little to find their feet when they were used to zapping through pieces.

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