Two reminders of why I love London occurred just within the last week.
On Friday, I went to an open rehearsal of Michael Tilson Thomas (music director of the San Francisco Symphony) with the London Symphony Orchestra, to watch them rehearse Schubert, Mahler (a wonderful short piece I hadn't heard before: Blumine), and Berg's Three Pieces. Besides being a fantastic musical experience, which it was (given the option, I would always rather go to the final rehearsal than the performance itself), I got to see the LSO in true form. The orchestra has a reputation for treating conductors as equals and generally having an ego, but of course one never sees it at a concert. At rehearsal, though, the horn players are constantly fiddling with their iPhones and the percussionists practice Berg while the orchestra is rehearsing Schubert. Best moment of all, though: during one complex point in the Berg, MTT got excited and strayed from his clear 4- or 8-pattern. He stopped to say something, but the timpanist interrupts: "Michael, what are you beating at bar forty?" He says this... to Michael Tilson Thomas... with the entire orchestra sitting there. But of course MTT handles it like a professional: before briskly moving on with whatever he was going to say, he replies, "Well, let's find out."
And last night, after the composition concert (which went quite well, I thought), we headed down to the bar that's underneath the Recital Hall. A few people were already down there, including a few people playing pool, including... no, it can't be... it is! Vladimir Jurowski, the music director of the London Philharmonic. I should explain that he's conducting a concert with the RCM Symphony Orchestra this weekend, and he was obviously there for a rehearsal. But still, I have to admit that I'm a little proud to be studying at a school where one finds the music director of the London Philharmonic playing pool in the student bar.