Viola player Laura Sinnerton on performing favourite works
Emmanuel Pahud Photo: EMI
Laura Sinnerton provides a BBC National Orchestra of Wales player's eye view of the Proms ...
It has felt a very long time since I last blogged about my Proms 2011 experience. In the interim, we have recorded more Doctor Who music and rehearsed for two Proms falling on consecutive days.
It’s always a little tricky having proms on consecutive days, especially when each work requires such different personnel. I was lucky to be playing in everything, but for a lot of colleagues, this week has involved much hanging around waiting to be needed.
Proms 16 & 18 represented the BBC's commitment to giving a platform to music from across the classical spectrum, mixing established masterworks with brand spanking new pieces. I was totally blown away by the Arditti Quartet. I think whether or not the work, Hinterland, by French composer Pascal Dusapin, was your thing or not, you couldn't fail to have been struck by the sheer muscular virtuosity of the Quartet's playing. As for Emmanuel Pahud - what can one say, he really is fabulous (not to mention very well dressed).
These Proms contained two of my favourite works ever - Stravinsky's Firebird and Beethoven 7. Playing them in a venue like the Albert Hall, with such audiences, magnifies a hundredfold the myriad reasons why these works are so wonderful.
Since joining the orchestra, I've played both Firebird Suites (I didn't initially realise there were two Suites, cue much confusion while I was listening to the score along with a recording, lamenting to no-one in particular that there must be something wrong with the part ...). With the complete Firebird, it was easy to get caught out, as there are whole passages transposed into different registers, or bits that you normally enjoy playing cruelly stolen by a different section. Complete ballet scores are funny things on the concert stage because they are missing one crucial ingredient - dancers. Nonetheless, it is amazing music and a masterclass in orchestral colour. The last ten minutes of the work are magic to play – the horn solo, the sweepy harps, the ascending strings, the brass, building from nothing to a monumental finish.
Beethoven 7 is in my Top 5 Favourite Pieces in the repertory as the last movement is blatant unashamed viola exuberance. We performed both Beethoven symphonies sans vibrato which challenged my own preconceptions of how to play Beethoven. We can become very arrogant and settled in our own opinions about how something should be done, and it is healthy to try something different. I couldn't stop smiling in the finale, where a lot of viola muscle was exhibited – behold the power of the C string!
For anyone still under the misconception that being a classical musician is glamorously romantic, you should have been on our coach home. That's always a 'down to earth with a bump' moment – especially when there is an accident on the M4, dreams of bed before midnight evaporate, and cabin fever sets in. Apologies to violinist Carl Darby, whose crossword I filled in with nonsense words while he slept.
- Listen to Prom 16 (Berlioz, Faure, Dusapin, Stravinsky's Firebird)
- Listen to Prom 18 (Dalbavie, Carter and Beethoven's 7th Symphony)