Thursday 27 September 2012, 16:59
While still a student, I remember saving my pennies so I could buy a ticket to an Emerson Quartet Southbank Centre residency, which saw them explore the entirety of Brahms' chamber music output for strings (including the F minor piano quintet - one of my all time favourites).
I spent the weekend in a state of unashamed rapture - the rapport between the players was electric, the sound every bit as exciting as it was in their recordings, and despite their gruelling touring schedule, they played with such incredible freshness and vigour. By the last concert I was all but wearing an 'I Heart ESQ' t-shirt, and nearly had to be resuscitated by my flat mate when we met the group's violist, Larry Dutton, on the train afterwards.
So, understandably, when the departure of cellist David Finckel was announced, I was bereft. Who would replace the cellist who had been so integral to the sound of the quartet I had loved for so long? In the string playing world as a whole, this really was big news.
It was then announced that in the 2013/2014 season, Welshman Paul Watkins will replace David Finckel, becoming the Emerson Quartet's first new member in over 30 years. So imagine my excitement when I found out that Paul Watkins will be our soloist at the North Wales International Music Festival, in St Asaph Cathedral, and also at the Theatr Hafren this weekend - what an opportunity to hear someone who, in my eyes at least, is officially classical music rock royalty!
In our first journey north of the season, Mr Watkins will join us for two performances of Daniel Jones' Cello Concerto. It is the centenary of the birth of Swansea-born Jones, and a quick scan through the schedule has informed me that I shall be getting to know quite a bit of his music over the next while.
As is tradition, at St Asaph, we will perform a work by William Mathias (he is buried just outside the cathedral) - on this occasion his Anniversary Dances. At both venues, there will be the opportunity to hear Wagner's Overture to Die Meistersinger, and Beethoven's Fourth Symphony.
After a start to the season that has seen us mostly locked in the studio recording various projects (that we cannot tell you about just yet!) while the end of summer quietly gave way to autumn, it will be nice to get out, and back on stage. We are very much looking forward to our first trip north of 2012/2013, especially when we have such an eminent soloist to bring to you.
The BBC National Orchestra of Wales will perform at the North Wales International Music Festival at St Asaph Cathedral on Saturday 29 September at 7.30pm, and at Hafren, Newtown on Sunday 30 September at 3pm.
Thursday 27 September 2012, 15:19
Thursday 27 September 2012, 16:35