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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 17:59 UK Time, Monday, 11 July 2011

Picture of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales with Thomas Sondergard

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales with Thomas Sondergard

BBC National Orchestra of Wales blogger Laura Sinnerton describes the experience of working with the orchestra's new principal conductor ...

It was back in 2009 when we first worked with Thomas Søndergård.  Our principal conductor, Thierry Fischer, had suddenly taken ill and Søndergård entered the fray at the last minute to conduct a programme of Sibelius, Mahler, and Brahms.  His pleasant manner, efficient, yet in-depth rehearsal technique and obvious passion for the music, left an immediate and lasting impression on us. As we were already aware that Thierry would be leaving us at the end of the 2011/2012 season, the great and infamous orchestral rumour mill was rolling before Søndergård had even left the studio – could he be the one for us?

Fast forward to Monday 11 July 2011: Thomas is with us to perform a programme of Sibelius, Dvořák and Prokofiev (with the fabulous violinist Baiba Skride). Now, management may have tried to keep it a secret from us all, like a surprise gift at Christmas, but the plethora of cameras and official people in the studio pretty much gave the game away that an announcement of exciting proportions was about to be made.  There were very wide smiles abounding in the studio (unusually for a Monday morning) as Thomas was announced as our new principal conductor.

With that, it was straight into rehearsal.  I won't bore you all with the technical details of the rehearsal, but what came across, as it did the first time we worked with him, was a great sense of musicality; a love for telling the story of the music, rather than just getting from A to B in the score.  Tonight's concert is one not to miss.

I really do believe this to be a very exciting time for our band.  Over the past year, we have won a BBC Music Magazine Award for David Matthews' Symphonies 2 & 6 (with Jac van Steen) and were nominated for a Grammy for our recording of Sullivan's Ivanhoe.  We have recently had a number of fantastic new appointments in key playing positions within the orchestra, bringing fresh blood and enthusiasm with them.  Mark Bowden, a former RPS Composition Prize winner, has just been announced as our new resident composer (in addition to his role as the Rambert Dance Company Music Fellow) and will be joining Simon Holt on our in-house composition team.  The addition of Thomas Søndergård to our already established conducting team of Tadaaki Otaka, François-Xavier Roth and Jac van Steen, reinforces the feeling of exciting times ahead.

The appointment of a new conductor affords us the opportunity to look back and see how far we have come.  It also gives us the opportunity to look forward and, in a way to redefine ourselves, seeking ever greater standards of performance and creativity in our role as a BBC orchestra and as Wales' National orchestra.  With Thomas Søndergård we can continue, in the words of Alex Ross in his book Listen To This, to work as an 'individual and an institution bringing out unforeseen capabilities in each other'.


  • Comment number 1.

    Not really connected to the BBC NoW concert, but I wonder whether your presenters earlier today realised the poignancy of playing the extract by Waltraute Maier, from Saint-Saens' Samson et Dalila (Composer of the Week), on the day Lord Harewood's death was announced.

    I think it's worth reminding readers (and the BBC) that he was a great influence in setting up English National Opera North in 1978 (almost 33 years on it is now know simply as Opera North) and that Samson et Dalila was the very first production by the company at the end of that year.

  • Comment number 2.

    Further to my comment about George Harewood's death, and the Samson connection, I was fascinated to hear the presenter of the BBC NoW concert last night announce that it would begin with a performance of EIN Saga - is this a German name for what I know as Sibelius' En Saga? Moreover she referred to the piece throughout, using the German form of the definite article.
    Ah well, at least it was consistent!


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