BBC NOW in concert with Tasmin Little

Friday 15 November 2013, 17:03

Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton

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After a lovely three concerts in mid and North Wales over the weekend, tonight sees us back in St David's Hall where we will be joined by violinist Tasmin Little in a performance of Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No 2.

We have worked with Tasmin a lot, and our performance with her last season of Bruch's Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky's Melodie was included on a BBC Music Magazine CD entitled Classic Violin Masterpieces, which was released this month.

This concert is rather special as it will mark Tasmin's 1,400th professional concert appearance. In today's extraordinarily competitive atmosphere that truly is an extraordinary achievement, and it is a pleasure for us to share it with her.

Szymanowski is not a composer with whom I am particularly familiar. While I was a student at the RNCM, my lovely violinist flatmate Lucy composed her thesis on Szymanowski's violin works, so they were often on in the flat, but I always had a feeling of not quite being able to grasp the works.

Indeed, there is something of a dream like quality to his music in my opinion; both listening and playing it is like walking through some sort of technicolour dream, with various events and ideas flying past you before you can really acknowledge them. It is music that I have to be in the right mood for as at times I find it all just too much - texturally, harmonically and thematically. It can be a little like the musical equivalent of being locked in the cosmetics store, Lush, assailed on all sides by different fragrances.

Writing in The Guardian in 2010, journalist Jim Samson described Szymanowski's writing as "a musical idiom that drew together the legacy of a full-blooded, post-Wagnerian romanticism and the impressionistic soundscape of modern French music". I think that's fairly on the money - it sounds as though Strauss, Debussy and Scriabin got chucked in a food processor by Wagner and blended on high power before being flavoured with a touch of oriental exoticism.

In the second half we will perform Brahms Symphony No 1, a work whose birth was a long and difficult one for the composer. We tend to think of certain composers bursting on to the musical scene, fully formed, with great works dripping out of every pore. It is difficult to remember sometimes that they were, generally speaking, just ordinary blokes with hopes, fears, loves and insecurities.

Brahms was not always the much venerated, bushy bearded father figure of our (my) imaginations. Prior to the premiere of his first symphony, he was so intimidated by the long shadow of prowess Beethoven had cast over the symphonic genre that he approached the idiom with caution, many reservations, and a great deal of uncertainty.

Thankfully, he persevered. I love to play Brahms - though must confess to loving his chamber works more than his symphonic output. Nonetheless, I find playing his symphonies like spending time with an old friend and there is, for me, a real sincerity in the music. I can never decide which of his symphonies is my favourite (though I think it's either the second or fourth), and they are always a joy to perform.

Tasmin Little performs Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No 2 with the Orchestra tonight (Friday 15 November, 7.30pm) at St David's Hall, Cardiff. For tickets call 02920 878444.

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