Happy new year! I hope everyone had a lovely break. The holidays passed all too quickly, but alas, there comes a time when one must stop eating turkey sandwiches for breakfast and rejoin the real world.
I'm excited about our first afternoon concert of 2012. It includes three works I've never had the opportunity to play before, and indeed, one composer who I am completely unfamiliar with.
First on the programme is The Chairman Dances by John Adams. Eighteen months ago I knew no Adams (aside from Short Ride In A Fast Machine). I'm really glad I've had the opportunity to get to know some of his music. I know it's not everyone's cup of Darjeeling, but I find it fascinating. The Dr Atomic Symphony was the first work I played with the orchestra, followed by Harmonielehre with Thierry Fischer last season and I found both works exhilarating.
Playing Adams feels a little like going through a musical MOT; everything has to be very exact and accurate. Indeed, practicing the part individually sometimes feels soulless, the seemingly endless repetitions can almost sound like something out of a Kreutzer study book. But there in lies the beauty of this music! It's like one of the big 1,000+ piece jigsaws my father likes - the individual pieces make such little sense on their own, but together make a complex and often beautiful whole.
I have never played music by Estonian composer Erkki-Sven Tuur, so it shall be a New Year voyage of discovery! His website informs me that he was originally involved in progressive rock and as my cousin Nick has recently got me listening to Pink Floyd, I am rather intrigued!
On Wednesday, we are joined by BBC New Generation Artist, Shabaka Hutchings whose jazz credentials make him a fine soloist for Copland's Clarinet Concerto. Aaron Copland was a huge Stravinsky fan and eventually fell into correspondence with him.
In one of my geek books, there is a lovely extract from a letter that Stravinsky sent to Copland writing "I want to tell you how much I love your clarinet concerto and how glad I have been to receive it from you." I would like Copland to know that I like his clarinet concerto more than Mozart's.
It seems fitting then that we finish the concert with Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements. With a lot of Stravinsky there is an element of 'getting in the groove'. This is one of those pieces. The first time I played this, I diligently learnt all the notes, so diligently however, that I lost sight of the fact that it is a living, moving piece of music. I simply just couldn't get into that elusive groove. Now, I'm looking forward to revisiting it like an old friend. Albeit an old friend who has the potential to trip me up should I not be paying due attention!
I hope you can join us for this lively, jazzy start to 2012!
Join Laura and the rest of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales for this Afternoon Concert on Wednesday 11 January, 2pm, at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Bay. For tickets and more information, call 0800 052 1812.