Thomas Søndergård: thoughts on a new era

Tuesday 9 October 2012, 15:33

Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton

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After many months of expectation, the week has finally arrived that will see the beginning of Thomas Søndergård's tenure as principal conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

This being my first orchestral job, I've never experienced first hand the excitement that such a time can bring. A new principal conductor is an important choice for an ensemble, and essentially, will influence many aspects of the orchestra's sound, direction and vision.

A new principal conductor can help the orchestra to redefine itself, to stop and take stock, in essence to say 'so, this is where we are now, this is where we want to be - how can we achieve that'.

Thomas' opening concert with the orchestra is, in my opinion, a really exciting programme, and reads like a manifesto for his principal conductorship. I will finally get the opportunity to play a work by the celebrated Finnish composer, Magnus Lindberg, as we perform his EXPO for orchestra, and indeed, much of the programme has a distinct Scandinavian slant.

There is also more than a nod to the operatic repertoire, a genre that has brought Thomas much critical acclaim, and orchestral works by two of his favourite composers, Richard Strauss and Sibelius (no complaints from me there).

On Thomas' agent's website, Askonas Holt, when asked about repertoire choices for his first season (in an interview with Clemency Burton-Hill), he is quoted as saying: "I'd like to do something with them that makes it special, really makes it ours."

As a musician, this fills me, not only with a lot of excitement, but also with a lot of confidence. In a time, when austerity seems to be reaching increasingly severe levels of belt-tightening, it often feels like each and every creative ensemble must justify its existence. The development and nurturing of an ensemble's unique, and individual, identity is perhaps key to this.

Over the last number of months, we have been photographed from every angle, in moody black and white, for the posters that are dotted over Wales. My favourite poster is the giant one, just as you come off platforms one and two, at Cardiff Central Station. We've also been on TV, in a series of TV trailers advertising our new season. Now, however, the photographers and camera crews have gone, and it is time to get down to work.

We start rehearsals today for Friday evening's St David's Hall concert. The soloist, Inger Dam-Jensen, may be familiar to Cardiff audiences as she won Cardiff Singer of the World in 1993. Since then she has graced the stages of Geneva Opera, Opera Bastille, Covent Garden and the Royal Danish Opera, in addition to winning a Gramophone Vocal Recording of the Year award for her recording of Nielsen songs on the DaCapo label.

This is the beginning of a new era, one that I feel will be musically satisfying for both musicians and audiences alike. Join us at the start of this relationship, and be a part of the rich musical community our city has to offer.

Thomas Søndergård’s first concert as principal conductor will be on Friday 12 October, at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, starting at 7.30pm. For more information and tickets, call the orchestra's Audience Line on 0800 052 1812, or St David’s Hall on 02920 878444.

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