Stravinsky in Florence

7 April 2015
Mark Hampson

Mark Hampson



It was with great anticipation that I travelled to Florence to take part in a new project with the MCO. We have been performing Stravinsky's Octet for some time now as a group whilst supporting the Beethoven Journey during some concerts, but this was to be the first time we would play a programme dedicated to our "Stravinsky Ensemble".

It's always a tremendous pleasure to work on this piece, it never fails to bring something new to the group, although we have performed it many times. It's also very special for me to perform a chamber programme of this type. As a bass trombonist in the MCO I often have to play a supporting role, but suddenly one finds oneself thrust into the limelight, furthermore we had a number of new pieces and arrangements to work on… it was going to be a very exciting few days.

First of all we rehearsed at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole, situated on a hillside above Florence, this amazing old building turned into a music school commands a spectacular view over the city and surrounding countryside, it was truly inspiring to warm up in the mornings playing to all the inhabitants of Florence… I didn't receive any complaints...which isn't always the case!

We also had the pleasure of staying in Florence itself and it was a true pleasure to spend a few hours looking around the city and enjoying some excellent evening meals at the nearby restaurants with my colleagues. The MCO is always a tight knit community, but on a chamber music project of this type, the connection one makes with the rest of the group is even more intimate and special.

On the last day I took the opportunity to walk through the beautiful streets of Florence on my way to the Teatro della Pergola where we were going to play in their chamber music room that evening. To be honest no one knew what to expect and we were sure that the delicate and open Gesualdo Madrigals would be a real challenge in a potentially dry and unfriendly acoustic. I am often the first one at the hall as I love to feel comfortable and play a little so I can connect with an unknown venue before a concert. To my delight this chamber music "room" ended up being a mini concert hall, a rather resonant and mercifully Gesualdo friendly acoustic which was most welcome!

The audience was quite small but wonderfully responsive and concentrated. We had so much fun on stage often playing on the limit and taking a lot of risk, this performance certainly ranked amongst some of the most exciting and taxing concerts I have played as a MCO musician.

This was a flying visit to Florence, and when I look back now, it seems little more than a flash in my memory. The concert stands out however, along with the new bonds I forged with my colleagues old and new. Even after nearly 17 years in the MCO I am grateful to be learning and discovering new sensations every time I play...long may it continue and thank you to all my wonderful fellow musicians!