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Followers of the London Symphony Orchestra blog (blog.lso.co.uk) will already be aware of the journalistic talents of the orchestra’s principal flute, Gareth Davies. The Show Must Go On may not be the most spankingly original of titles, but Davies’ concept works a treat: to combine a multiplicity of his blog entries with an account of the orchestra’s first visit to the USA in 1912. That legendary trip should have incorporated the Titanic’s maiden voyage. However, fatefully for so many others, this was delayed by several weeks. The LSO made other travel arrangements.

Key to the development of the book was the recent discovery of timpanist Charles Turner’s diary of the 1912 US adventure. This brings added life and colour to Davies’s stage-by-stage account of that tour (well illustrated, by the way) which interleaves with much fuller themed chapters on the pleasures and rigours of present-day touring – everything from standing in immigration queues, dining out and keeping in touch with home, to scenes from backstage and many a vivid account of (and reflection on) rehearsals and performances. Among the conductors featured, Valery Gergiev receives most attention – larger than life, of course – while the universal affection for the now deceased Colin Davis is palpable.

As for the 1912 tour: those of a historical bent may wish for a fuller narrative (after all, archive us newspapers are available in their thousands online). But that’s a minor quibble. As you would expect, Davies is keen to draw comparisons with modern-day touring – not least with Charles Turner’s help. Poignantly, the death of one LSO player in 1912 precedes an account of the news reaching today’s orchestra, while in new York, of the death of principal oboe, Kieron Moore. Nikisch, the conductor centre-stage in 1912, is well drawn.

Davies writes engagingly and fluently as a perceptive observer of orchestral life, with a keen eye for entertaining detail. Here’s one multi-tasker who really could give up the day-job.

ANDREW GREEN Read the full review on Agora Classica

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