It is an oft quoted biblical phrase that a prophet is not recognised in his own land, and frequently, I fear, the same can be said for composers. However, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, mindful of its dual role as a BBC ensemble, but also Wales' national symphony orchestra, has a continuing commitment to promoting talent Welsh talent.
Continuing our autumn/winter foray into the world of contemporary music, we last week presented a Welsh 'Panorama', a concert of seven works by seven composers resident in, or hailing from, Wales.
From a musician's point of view, a concert like this is tough going. That is no comment on the actual music, just simply on the stamina and concentration needed to get through seven very different, very technically challenging, large scale orchestral works. I personally felt quite brain drained by the time the concert went down on Friday evening.
I feel that we often think of 'new' music as being all crash, bang, wallop, and without a doubt, at times, especially if the music is very angular and jumps about from one extreme to another of an instrument's range, it can feel a little bit like it.
However, it is our job to overcome the technical difficulties of a work, and present a performance as close to the composer's vision as possible. No matter how tricky it is, you have to concentrate on making a good sound, and being as accurate as you possibly can be - and in a seven work programme, that is exhausting.
I had two personal favourites of the evening - the Concertino for Violin and Strings by Huw Watkins, and Moler by Arlene Sierra.
Huw Watkins - brother of cellist Paul Watkins, whom I was starstruck by a few months ago - is well known as both a pianist and a composer. His Concertino for Violin and Strings utilises the violin's singing qualities and capacity for brilliant passage work. I liked this because, in my very humble opinion, a good work should alway showcase the strengths of the instruments it is composed for.
We will be working closely with Arlene Sierra in the new year, recording a number of her works. Since winning the Takemitsu Prize in 2001 for Aquilo, one of the works we will record in the new year, Arlene has won a steady stream of international awards and commissions.
Moler was a commission for the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and Friday night saw its European premiere at Hoddinott Hall. It has been my favourite of her works so far. - I liked the unrelenting drive the music had, and it had a structure that my ear could comprehend.
It is worth mentioning that our work with Welsh composers is a year round affair. At present we have called for compositions for Composition: Wales 2013, the deadline for which is Monday 3 December. If you would like the opportunity to workshop a composition with the orchestra and our principal guest conductor Jac van Steen, check out our website for further details of this exciting project.