Sallitt, OBE. She worked for the paper from to Her break came with a chance meeting at a dinner party. The editor of The Sunday Times Magazine asked her to write a feature about her experiences. That column ran from to , when she moved to The Mail on Sunday , where she worked for another five years.
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Appassionata Jilly Cooper Abigail Rosen, nicknamed Appassionata, was the sexiest, most flamboyant violinist in classical music, but she was also the loneliest and the most exploited girl in the world. Given the chance to take over the Rutminster Symphony Orchestra, Abby is ecstatic, not realising the RSO is in hock up to its neck and is composed of the wildest bunch of musicians ever to blow a horn or caress a fiddle.
And then Rannaldini, arch-fiend and international maestro, rolls up with Machiavellian plans of his own to sabotage the RSO. I was constantly touched and amazed that musicians who work such punishing hours often for totally inadequate reward should not only be the merriest and the funniest people in the world, but also the most generous with their time.
These eight muses gave me inspiration, encouragement, endless introductions and marvellous hospitality. I cannot thank them enough. I would also like to thank two great orchestras. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, whose managing director, Anthony Woodcock, very kindly allowed me to spend a fantastic week in Poole, talking to both musicians and management, sitting in on rehearsals, touring the South of England, listening to marvellous concerts.
Within twenty-four hours, he had elicited an invitation to tour Spain from Paul Hughes, who must be the nicest man in classical music, and who had just taken over the RSNO as managing director. Thus followed one of the best weeks of my life, as the orchestra roared through five cities bringing the very formal Spanish audiences yelling in delight to their feet.
Walter Weller, darkly urbane and charismatic, was the conductor. John Lill, adored by musicians and public alike, was the soloist, reducing us to tears of joy by his piano playing and tears of laughter with his outrageous jokes at the parties afterwards.
Jacqueline Noltingk ensured everything ran miraculously smoothly. One of my heroes in Appassionata is a young pianist, so I am deeply indebted for their advice to great soloists: Philip Fowke, Janina Fialkowska, Alan Kogosowsky.
I am also grateful to Philip MacKenzie, conductor and moving force behind the west country Amadeus Chorus and Orchestra and his bassoonist wife, Charlotte, who suggested I play the narrator in Peter and the Wolf at the Colston Hall in so I could experience the utter terror of performing as a soloist with an orchestra. My other more gilded hero is a brass player.
I must especially thank dear Bill Holland and Harriet Capaldi of Warner Classics for producing the most beautiful CD, titled Appassionata, from a selection of the music featured in the book. During my research I spent a lovely morning at the English National Ballet, where Amanda Gilliland and Jane Haworth were as beautiful as they were informative. I also spent fascinating days at the Royal Academy of Music and the Royal College of Music, watching Professor Colin Metters and the venerable George Hurst assessing student conductors, practising their skills on respective college orchestras.
On a plane to Lapland in , I sat next to a delightful bassoon teacher, who told me piano competitions were frightfully bent with large lady judges often receiving grand pianos as bribes. After that I naturally included a piano competition in the book. Joe Lewis looked after me backstage. Another brilliant British contestant, Paul Lewis, came second, and again spent many hours talking to me. The music press were also fantastic. Malcolm Hayes of the Daily Telegraph and Mike Tumelty of the Glasgow Herald held my hand on the tour of Spain; David Fingleton looked after me at the Leeds and took me to endless lovely concerts, as did dear Lesley Garner, super columnist, and Mel Cooper, of Classic FM, who opened his great generous heart and his address book to me on endless occasions.
John Julius Norwich invited me to a gorgeous lunch in the country. My old friend and Sunday Times colleague, Peter Watson, wrote a terrific biography of Nureyev, which was a constant inspiration when I was inventing my explosive dancer, Alexei Nemerovsky. All my friends in fact entered into the spirit of the book. Alan Titchmarsh thought up the title Appassionata. My piano tuner, Marcus Constance, dreamt up a devilish plot for sabotaging a grand piano in the middle of a competition.
Musicians have many ailments. On the non-musical front, Patrick Despard of Arcona was fiendishly imaginative about the splendours and skulduggeries of property developing. Many people wrote offering advice and anecdotes. Many numbers went down in my telephone book. Sadly I never followed them up, as in the end I had to get down and write the book. If researching Appassionata was a joy, writing it was an absolute nightmare, because an orchestra consists of so many characters, and mine were continually getting out of control, particularly in their behaviour.
In fact Paul Hughes, Ian Pillow and Linn Rothstein, who most heroically read through the manuscript for mistakes, said they had never come across an orchestra who behaved quite so badly as my Rutminster Symphony Orchestra. Nor in fact had I. The high jinks and bad behaviour in the book are totally invented and I would stress that Appassionata is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any living person or organization is wholly unintentional and purely coincidental. My publishers, Paul Scherer, Mark Barty-King, Patrick Janson-Smith of Transworld, as usual, have been impeccable, constantly encouraging and reassuringly rock solid at a time of book trade turbulence.
I have also had wonderful editorial help from the glorious Diane Pearson and from Broo Doherty, who grew cross-eyed as she ploughed through pages of manuscript, crammed with musical references. She was, however, so charming and so enthusiastic about the book that I accepted nearly all the changes she suggested. I am also eternally lucky in having the best, most delightfully insouciant agent in London, Desmond Elliott and his assistant Nathan Mayatt, who spent so much time photostatting and despatching.
For the first time, the huge manuscript was typed on computers. The real heroines of Appassionata are therefore my friends: Annette Xuereb-Brennan, Anna Gibbs-Kennet and Pippa Moores, who completed the job on new machines in an amazing five weeks. They worked long into the night, deciphering my deplorable handwriting, punctuating, correcting spelling and pointing out howlers. I cannot express sufficient gratitude to them nor to Ann Mills, my equally heroic cleaner, who somehow cleared up the mess while picking her way delicately through rising tower blocks of manuscript until the house looked rather like Hong Kong.
Sadly, my dear friend and PA, Jane Watts, who supervised so much of the photostatting and collation of the book, and who had given me so much love and support over the past six years, left in November.
With huge luck, her place was soon taken by Pippa Moores, who arrived to oversee the move into computers, and stayed to become my new assistant. My family, comme toujours, were staunchness personified. Leo, Felix and Emily hardly saw me for eighteen months, but gave endless cheer and comfort. So did my dogs Barbara and Hero, and four cats, Agnes, Sewage, Rattle and Tilson-Thomas, who provided sweet, silent companionship and protection in the gazebo, even at the dead of night.
Dear gallant Barbara Gertrude the mongrel in my last four books seemed determined to cling on to life if only to see me safely into port. She died a few days after I finished writing, leaving the world unbearably the poorer. Finally, I would like to thank musicians everywhere for the joy they bring, and to beg the public, the Government and the local authorities to give them the support and funding they so desperately need, because a twenty-first century without orchestras would be very bleak indeed.
Appassionata, by Jilly Cooper
Why do people read Jilly Cooper? More to the point, why - without being ordered to do so by an armed thug - do people buy, and presumably read, every single novel Jilly Cooper writes? Appassionata is by way of being a concerto grosso, with the Rutminster where else? Symphony Orchestra - an appalling ensemble among whose members are to be found a trumpeter called Randy Hamilton, a cellist called Nellie the Nympho and a pair of basses a nice pair, naturally called Dirty Harry and El Squeako - providing the accompaniment for a quartet of soloists, namely Marcus the gay pianist, Flora the jolly violist, Abby the brilliant but very silly violinist who is forced to take up conducting for a living after she slashes her bowing hand in a jealous frenzy, and last but unquestionably not least, Viking the nudge, nudge horn player. Quick-witted readers will spot at once that Viking is Irish; he says "onless" and "disgosst" and he wears boxer shorts covered in Golden Retrievers carrying The Irish Times.
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