Hello north Wales!
It is Thursday morning and aside from my toothbrush, which I will need shortly, and my travel tea mug, which I will fill just before I leave, I am packed and ready to go. Today the BBC National Orchestra of Wales rolls north for its Spring North Wales Tour 2012!
Andy and Mark, our stage and transport managers will already be on the road. Before the orchestra has left, they will have begun the drive to Aberystwth Arts Centre. By the time we arrive for rehearsal, they will have unloaded all the equipment from the Orchestra truck, including a good many instruments, set the stage up, negotiated the stage changes and be ready to ensure everything runs smoothly on stage. When the concert is finished, Andy and Mark will do everything in reverse, ready to drive to the next venue.
Under the baton of our Principal Guest Conductor, Jac van Steen, we are taking two programmes on tour this week.
Prokofiev's Classical Symphony is exactly what you would imagine it is - a tribute to the Classical era symphony by Prokofiev. We will perform it alongside Haydn's 'London' Symphony so you can hear for yourself what a remarkable job Prokofiev did!
Prokofiev's music is fresh, exuberant, elegant and sparkly, and typically contains enough tunes that stick in your head to keep you awake for several nights in a row. It is, however, one of those pieces you could wear your metronome out practicing - it is easy to play under tempo, but not so easy up to speed. You have to keep both the bow and the left hand very organised or the fast passage work becomes muddy, and the slow passages sound flabby. There is one particularly nasty section in the last movement that on occasion can creep up in viola auditions (if the panel is feeling particularly mean). I remember weeping over these four lines in college because I kept panicking and getting my fingers in a muddle!
We are also touring Dvořák 7 (I like the Scherzo), and overtures by Tchaikovsky (Hamlet - not very cheerful) and Schumann (Genoveva - quite perky).
For me one of the highlights of the week so far has been the return of violinist Vilde Frang to our studio. We first worked with Vilde when she performed the Sibelius Concerto with us and Principal Conductor Designate, Thømas Sondergård. Thømas and Vilde know each other well (he was the conductor for her award winning debut recording for EMI with the WDR Symphonieorchester Köln) and it was a highly memorable performance.
This week, Vilde will play the Tchaikovsky and Bruch concertos with us. She is such a beautifully natural musician and with a string of awards under her belt, including the prestigious Credit Suisse Young Artists' Award, this is a fabulous opportunity to see her perform these much loved concerti.
I shall report back during the tour and maybe even try to get a few photos of the lovely north Wales scenery. Fingers crossed for good weather!