Well, it's been a very varied few weeks at BBC NOW headquarters. Indeed, there has been a veritable feast of projects on the go. Recording, concertising, fraternising with Pudsey bear, and performing with celebrities to boot. It has been all go.
Radio 3 recently embarked upon a Piano Season; a six week celebration of the piano and its music (I, personally, look forward to Viola Season - there'd better be one). Last Monday, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales was involved in the culmination of Piano Season in what can only be described as a piano extravaganza. We were joined by not one but a dozen pianists. That is a lot of ticklers of the ivory, by anyone's standards.
The concert opened with Bach's Concerto in D Minor for Three Harpsichords. Played on pianos. It wasn't harpsichord season. The main issue here was what to do with the three pianos. How could they be arranged so that the three soloists (Norkio Ogawa, Thomas Yu, Alexandra Dariescu) could see the conductor (Grant Llewellyn), be seen by the audience, and see each other? The issue was eventually resolved, with two facing inwards from the left and one from the right.
Next, we had the opportunity to hear Nicholas McCarthy, a recent graduate of the Royal College of Music, perform a number of solo works. Born without his right hand, Nicholas performs works for left handed pianist, of which there is a broad repertoire (the most famous example, perhaps, being Ravel's Concerto for Left Hand).
Noriko Ogawa returned to the stage along with Kathryn Stott to perform Graham Fitkin's concerto for two pianos, Circuit. With its high octane energy, and unrelenting rhythmic drive, this work is a tour de force for the two soloists, and one I'd love to hear again.
As part of Piano Season, Radio 3 challenged several personalities without keyboard skills to undertake instruction from piano teachers for six weeks, before coming to perform with us in concert. In the same concert as Noriko Ogawa and Kathryn Stott. No pressure there then!
The game bunch were Radio 1's Dev, the Asian network's Tommy Sandhu, and Olympic Pentathelete, Samantha Murray, along with Blue Peter's Barney Harwood and my father's favourite, BBC Breakfast's weather presenter, Carol Kirkwood.
After a special performance of the opening of Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto by Pudsey Bear (I was concerned how he could do this as I believe Pudsey has only three fingers on each hand), we were on to the final work of the evening - Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2, with soloist ,Valentina Lisitsa.
Having for years decried the piano as nothing more than a glorified percussion instrument masquerading as furniture, I feel it is time for a confession. I only say that because I was terrible at it (I actually cried in my Grade 6 exam).
I genuinely am in awe of anyone who can make beautiful music on a piano; it's subtleties utterly elude me. This concert was a fabulous evening showcasing piano virtuosity of all kinds, and I throughly enjoyed it. Even if I did end up singing bits of the Rachmaninov for days on end afterwards.
For more information about the BBC National Orchestra of Wales’ forthcoming concerts, visit www.bbc.co.uk/now.