Monday 25 March 2013, 09:31
The previous night, after the Aberystwyth concert, many of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales continued the journey on to Llandudno to stay in rented accommodation. It's just a bit more civilised than living out of a suitcase in a hotel.
This afforded me a free morning and I took the opportunity to catch up with my friend Cat who was in Llandudno with Welsh National Opera. Incidentally, our WMC neighbours are on tour for the next number of weeks and I thoroughly recommend all three productions, especially Berg's Lulu.
The journey from Llandudno to Bangor has some beautiful scenery, and being from close to the Irish North coast, I know good scenery when I see it. Lovely views also somewhat distract a long suffering motion sickness sufferer like myself a little bit.
Rehearsal was a little later than expected as we had to do our bit for Comic Relief, this year in the guise of a Handel aria mash up. I still think an instrument swap performance of the Rite of Spring would be funny!
On to the rehearsal proper, and again we had to adapt to a very different acoustic. In Bangor, the stage is deep rather than wide, so the wind and brass are quite removed from the strings and have to anticipate a lot in order to keep good ensemble.
The hall is also very resonant, and so, it was necessary to do a lot of work on the Nielsen because its dense textures and layered lines, in such a resonant acoustic it could end up blurry and the soloist utterly swamped.
I really like going to Bangor's Pritchard Jones Hall. There is always a really good audience (that evening's concert was no exception), and it feels like there is a great cultural openness. Having played contemporary music programmes at this venue as well as very mainstream programmes, the audience enthusiasm for both is incredibly heartening. There's also a really nice noodle bar close by that I am very fond of.
The concert commenced with Sibelius' Scènes Historiques. I very much like this work - a new work to me. The last movement, Festival, has this weird Sibeliusy bolero, if you can imagine what that sounds like?! On to the concerto, and Rob's performance of Nielsen's Clarinet Concerto was impressive to say the least. The orchestral parts are horribly difficult, so I can only imagine what the solo part must be like.
After the interval came Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. I enjoy Thomas' approach to the Beethoven; it's a very no nonsense, play what is on the page, unfussy interpretation, and I feel this allows the drama and exuberance of the work to leap from the pages of the score without obstruction from any unnecessary affectations.
On a slightly different note, Beethoven 5 always throws up one real puzzler for me: what do the trombones and contrabassonist think about during the three movements they're not in? Best not to ask perhaps.
The audience reception was not just warm, but also very vocal at the end of the performance, and many of us were sad not to also be presenting our 'spring' programme there. However, it was back to Llandudno for a late supper, and in the morning, off to Wrexham.