We're back in Swansea... and I want another ice cream
I get rather excited around this time every year. The January sales are always pregnant with the possibility of finding the perfect concert dress: stylish without being overly trendy, yet comfortable and demure without looking like something from a nun's wardrobe.
Orchestral dress is one of those seemingly insignificant, yet really quite important aspects of our job. In ballet and opera, the orchestra is hidden, but in orchestral work we are the main visual point. Granted, I'm sure an audience would rather see us playing fabulously in our civvies than horrendously in the most gorgeous frocks imaginable, but, to me, being well turned out for a concert is respectful to the music you are playing and to the audience who have paid to attend the concert.
It goes without saying that I was exceptionally disappointed by the January sales, and the search for the perfect concert dress continues.
On Saturday night (14 January) the National Orchestra of Wales returns to the Brangwyn Hall for our first Swansea concert of 2012. We were last there in December as part of our Christmas Celebrations and, despite the December weather, quite a number of us enjoyed sundaes at a nearby ice cream parlour. My favourite is the strawberry marshmallow topping.
In Saturday's concert, we will be repeating the Stravinsky Symphony in Three Movements from Wednesday afternoon's concert followed by Lalo's Cello Concerto with soloist Alban Gerhardt.
After the interval it is the turn of Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances. Since I joined the orchestra they have performed the Symphonic Dances twice, but for one reason or another I have not been involved in either concert. So, this is my first crack at them. It's great to have the opportunity to get to know a work that one has always been aware of, but never had the chance to play before.
Of course, Rachmaninov isn't to everyone's taste; some people find his music a bit too self-indulgent and melodramatic. I can understand that to a certain extent - I think it is certainly true that familiarity breeds contempt, which can often be true of a work such as Rachmaninov's much loved, but also very much performed Second Piano Concerto (it will be refreshing to play his First Piano Concerto with the fabulous Stephen Hough next week). However, I think the Symphonic Dances are less sentimental than the music found in at least the second and third concertos.
The finale in particular I find exceptionally exciting (the immature side of me still loves that noisy, brassy, over the top finale found so often in music from this period) and the driving quavers of the first movement have such verve and vigour - this week's music has had a decidedly dance-infused flavour!
Still feeling very well rested from the Christmas break, it is exciting to consider the variety of work we will undertake over the coming months. Perhaps now is a good time to go through the brochure or online concert diary and get excited about what concerts you would like to see!
The BBC National Orchestra of Wales visits Swansea's Brangwyn Hall this Saturday 14 January at 7.30pm. For tickets and information, call 0800 052 1812, or the Grand Theatre Box Office on 01792 475715.