Friday 7 June 2013, 14:50
Tonight the BBC National Orchestra of Wales makes its last trip of the 2012/2013 season to the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea. Under the baton of conductor Christoph König, we will be joined by Lara Melda, the extraordinarily worthy winner of the BBC Young Musician crown in 2010, for a programme of Dvorak, Beethoven and Brahms.
Dvorák's Othello Overture is, in fact, not an overture to anything. Rather, it is a tone poem that was the final part of a musical triptych of overtures entitled Nature, Life and Love. In the end, however, the three parts were published separately.
Incidentally, neither of the other two (Nature's realm and Carnival) have anything to do with Shakespeare at all. Othello, as you would imagine, is by turns melodramatic, noble and poised in character, and at other times deeply impassioned. You can hear little snippets of ideas (not necessarily direct quotes - more like little premonitions of ideas), that eventually found their way into the iconic New World Symphony which was composed only a year later.
In 2010, we played for the final of the BBC Young Musician competition, and Lara Melda was the obvious victor that year. We have since played with her on a number of occasions, and she seems to go from strength to strength.
For this concert she will perform Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto. I am rather a fan of this concerto; I love how its moods and character turn on a knife edge, one moment sounding so naughty and playful, the next menacing, then plaintive and yearning.
The second movement has one the most beautiful chorale openings, although it's always an anxious moment if you're a bit peckish and have a very rumbly tummy. Also, about one minute into the second movement there is an achingly sumptuous harmony change that you must look out for.
Closing the concert will be Brahms' Fourth Symphony. I can never decide which Brahms symphony is my favourite. I think I have narrowed it down to Number 3 or 4.
Number 1 has been dismissed as, aside from the really dramatic timpani strokes that mark the opening, I can never remember how it goes until we play it. Number 2 has also been discounted because, well, it's just a bit too 'nice' for me - I like something with a bit more anguish in it (I blame my Celtic romanticism and bias towards the melodramatic).
Number 3 is a definite contender. It's not as 'sunny' as the D major Symphony, but is very lovely all the same and has a great viola part. My favourite video of this is of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe performing at the 2011 Proms with the most zen Haitink ever.
And what of Number 4? There's not one movement of it I dislike, and the viola part is interesting to play, requiring equal amounts of muscle and sensitivity. From the undulating accompaniment of the opening, to the horn call and string pizzicati of the second movement, from the bit of a knees-up in the third movement, to the unusual passacaglia finale. I think Brahms' Fourth may be my favourite Brahms Symphony, by a nose.
The BBC National Orchestra of Wales will perform music by Dvorák, Beethoven and Brahms tonight (Friday 7 June) at Swansea's Brangwyn Hall. For tickets call 01792 475715.
Tuesday 4 June 2013, 16:21
Friday 7 June 2013, 14:22