It’s been said that the trouble with singers is that they can’t keep their mouths shut. So I am glad to hear that the wonderful soprano Renée Fleming is maintaining a healthy interest in the benefits of a balanced diet - unlike the renowned singer with whom I shared a recital at one of Britain’s leading country house hotels: an establishment, moreover, renowned worldwide as a temple of fine cuisine.
So appalled was my fellow artiste by the ‘miserable’ size of her portions that she immediately sent for a take-away. The subsequent arrival of a motorcyclist bearing several portions of chips from McDonald’s is still retold with relish by gleeful members of staff.
But what - if any - fitness regimes do top musicians follow? We hear a lot about how athletes prepare for major events but next to nothing about how musicians prepare for concerts. And when you consider that giving a two-hour recital is apparently equivalent to shifting several tons of coal, fitness for a musician is obviously just as important.
In my own case I feel horribly guilty. For a long time I ran every morning in my local London garden square but – as I am no longer allowed to have a key – I hardly do any exercise at all. Although I reckon that all those hours spent practising (added to all those hours spent walking around airports) must mean I am expending quite a lot of physical energy every day.
However, considering the extreme levels of stress we impose on our bodies, the lack of any mapped out fitness guidance for musicians is worrying. Before one of my recent concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, the promoter took the unusual step of bringing in a professional physical trainer to check out the fitness of the performers. Talking to him backstage it was obvious that he regarded all of us musicians as ‘accidents waiting to happen’ – which was a little alarming just before walking on stage to play the Elgar Concerto!
He thought I should be having a thorough massage by someone who understood the particular strains of what I do at least once a month and I may well follow his advice. Prevention, as they say, is better than cure.