What an incredible October weekend! This weekend's heat wave thankfully coincided with a whole weekend off for the orchestra. On Sunday, a few of us went to the beach for a barbecue and to lie on beach towels, which gave me some time to reflect on our concert last Friday night.
Two things struck me from the very beginning of the concert. Firstly, how smart the gentlemen all looked in their tails! I love it when the men wear tails - it reminds me of watching old footage of orchestras from back in the day; tails may be considered an archaic form of dress these days, but I think they look great. No man can look scruffy in tails, even if he tries really hard. Bring back tails!
The second thing that struck me was the audience. St David's Hall has a deceptively large auditorium and it was encouraging to see it so well filled. You all looked very lovely in the audience too!
There was a tangible atmosphere of expectancy for the Adams and the children's chorus (made up of the choristers of Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester) added a chilling edge to the work. It's remarkable that such small people can make such a large noise.
The heat onstage was quite fierce on Friday evening and I was glad to get offstage at the interval. As we were about to come on for the second half, all psyched up and ready to go for a spot of Beethoven with BBC National Chorus of Wales, the fire alarm went off, resulting in a complete evacuation of the building.
There's an air of anti-climax when something like this happens and it doesn't do much for your concentration levels. There's a lot of uncertainty as to how long proceedings will be held up, and then, once the building has been declared not in actual fact on fire, will there be sufficient time to complete the concert? As it turned out, St David's Hall was not ablaze and with only a short delay we were back on.
This was my first Beethoven 9 and I now find it an even more remarkable work than I had done before. When you think about it, this symphony is incredible in so many ways. At the time of its première, the magnitude of its orchestral forces dwarfed anything that had been composed previously. The length of the work was unprecedented and it is one of the earliest works to include a full chorus, plus soloists. If you consider the fact that Beethoven was probably completely deaf by the time he composed this colossus, you cannot fail to be amazed by this work.
I believe this symphony was the perfect foil to the Adams. While the opening work was a commemoration of unthinkable tragedy, the Beethoven lifts the listener out of despair. Even today, I feel it is one of the most amazing tributes to man's resilience and to our ability to rise above our circumstance. It is a truly awe-inspiring celebration of humankind.