Friday 21 February 2014, 17:09
Last week, BBC National Orchestra of Wales performed in Aberystwyth, Bangor, Wrexham and Llandudno as part of their tour to mid and north Wales. Laura Sinnerton kept a diary of the tour – exploring what life is like on the road with the orchestra.
I think everyone will be in agreement that the weather has been utterly miserable of late. I hate this sort of weather - my fingers feel incredibly stiff, dry, and swollen from the cold weather outside, and the heating inside. Warming up seems to take a massive effort and a ridiculously long time. The cold and damp really seems to have set in my bones, and all I want to do is hibernate or wrap my hands around an unending mug of hot tea!
There were a number of concerns regarding the north Wales tour because of the weather - would the roads be passable, would audiences be willing or even able to get to the concert venues? We headed off for our first venue, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, on Thursday morning and thankfully it remained dry for the journey.
BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Callum Smart rehearsing in Aberystwyth.
Arriving in Aberystwyth, the desire for a hot bowl of soup was quickly met, followed by a bit of time to warm up before rehearsal. We were bringing two programmes on tour, the first of which included Beethoven’s First Leonore Overture, Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 5, and Schubert’s Ninth Symphony.
This Beethoven overture is probably the least known of the four overtures he composed for his opera Fidelio. Opera was not a genre that came particularly naturally to Beethoven - though frankly, who cares when he wrote symphonies and quartets of such beauty and ground-breaking innovation. To me, Leonore No 1 sounds a little like a selection of recitatives and arias minus the vocal lines.
For Mozart’s fifth violin concerto, popularly known as The Turkish, we were joined by young British violinist Callum Smart. With competition wins from the Menuhin Competition and BBC Young Musician of the Year, Callum, still only 17, recently appeared in BBC Music Magazine’s feature - Rising Star: Great Artists of Tomorrow. We first worked with Callum back in 2010, during the Young Musician of the Year contest, and it is lovely to continue a relationship with these young musicians and to be able to chart their progress.
As many of you will know, Schubert’s ninth is known as The Great Symphony in C. However among those of us on the opposite side of the music stand, it is frequently referred to as The Great C Monster. It is an exhausting work to play. I would genuinely prefer to play Mahler 3 twice over than Schubert 9 with all the repeats. There is something in the unrelenting nature of the string writing that gives you terrible muscle fatigue. By the time one reaches the final movement, one is often either ready to cry for mercy, or will have breached the pain barrier and be in a slightly hysterical, euphoric state!
The following day, after a morning watching the Winter Olympics, we were off to the Pritchard Jones Hall at Bangor University for the second outing of our first programme. The weather was appalling and we nearly lost our conductor, Nick Collon and Broadcast Assistant, Callum Thomson, to a falling tree branch! Luckily, everyone arrived at Bangor safely.
Saturday would see a change of programme, a journey to Wrexham, and yet more wind and rain.
On a separate note, our new website is now live. You can download our season brochures and find out all about the orchestra, and the chorus.
Thomas Søndergård conducts the BBC National Orchestra of Wales at Swansea’s Grand Theatre on Friday 21 February at 7.30pm – for tickets and information call the Box Office on 01792 475715.