Friday 1 June 2012, 14:10
This week we have been preparing to take part in the 2012 St David's Cathedral Festival with conductor Siân Edwards and mezzo-soprano Anna Stéphany. Our concert will be on Friday evening and we have our fingers crossed for good weather because who doesn't love a picnic on the green outside the cathedral?
I am not a great coach traveller and the journey to the cathedral is definitely a long one. I'm sure I've mentioned in earlier blog posts that I have been troubled by motion sickness since I was little, so I always regard long coach journeys with a certain degree of apprehension. I really hate that feeling of getting off a coach to start a rehearsal, with legs like jelly and everything feeling like it is moving! I have prepared nibbles, a big bottle of water, and a pimped out music selection to distract myself for the journey.
This year we present a programme of mostly familiar, well loved works at the festival. Ralph Vaughan Williams' Variations on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, with its double string orchestra, is a real gem in the crown of the string orchestral canon. With its evocative harmonies and intertwining solo melodies, this work is as much a pleasure to play as it is to listen to. We will also perform this in the BBC Proms in a few months under the baton of conductor laureate Taadaki Otaka. The work always reminds me of long hot summer days; the second orchestra is like the hazy mirages you can sometimes see on the horizon, mimicking but not always true to real life.
Elgar's Enigma Variations are a perennial favourite. Pretty much everyone would at the very least recognise the Nimrod Variation, associated as it has become with the solemnity of British state events. My favourite is either Variation 11 (the one where a friend's dog infamously falls into the River Wye) or Variation 7 dedicated to the architect Arthur Troyte Griffith.
I can't decide what I think of the Ravel Menuet Antique that will open the concert. I am fond of Ravel's music, but this sounds rather unravelian to me! However, it will be a real treat to hear Anna Stéphany perform Berlioz's sumptious Les Nuits d'Été.
Anna represented England in the 2009 Cardiff Singer of the World and since then has gone on to many, many great things. This year alone has seen engagements with the Bolshoi, appearances with the London Symphony Orchestra at Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, and, also with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. In addition to this she will join the Zurich Opera in the 2012/13 (her first role will be as Cherubino in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro). She is undoubtedly a star in ascent, and the cathedral will be a beautiful setting for this song cycle.
I think this is a lovely programme to bring to St David's Cathedral. Whatever the weather, it will be a great evening.
The orchestra will be performing at St David's Cathedral tonight (Friday 1 June) from 7pm. Limited tickets are available on the door.