Let the Proms begin...
The BBC Proms are the world's largest festival of classical music, and it is a great honour for us to be involved so heavily in the season each year.
Our first 2012 Prom came hot on the heels of our tour to China, and a full day's recording for a new children's show to be aired in the Autumn. It was quite a hefty programme, the first half comprising of Elgar's In The South and Hugh Wood's jazz inspired, and incredibly complex, Concerto for Piano. The second half was a watery event, dedicated to music inspired by the sea - Ravel's Une Barque Sur L'Océan, Prom founder, Henry Wood's orchestration of Debussy's La Cathédrale Engloutie, and Debussy's La Mer.
The programme was to be conducted by principal conductor, Thierry Fischer, who unfortunately had to withdraw last minute due to ill health - young British conductor Ryan Wigglesworth took the reins at short notice.
In The South was the first work by Elgar that I ever really liked. My little Irish heart somehow always bristled a little at the overt imperialism of the Pomp and Circumstance marches, and until I went to college, sadly, these were the only Elgar works I knew. I had yet to discover the turbulent angst of the Introduction and Allegro, the humour of the Enigma Variations, the imagination of works such as Cockaigne, and the glorious viola solo of In The South (on this occasion, beautifully and imaginatively played by principal viola, Goran Fröst). When we first played through the Wood Concerto for Piano, I knew we were in for some hard work! This is definitely one of those works that I would term a 'stressful' play. It is rhythmically very complex, and the writing gives you ample scope for coming in with an embarrassingly loud spare (when you play where you shouldn't). The viola part requires very dexterous playing, jumping around from the low register to the high register frequently and at speed. In short, it's one of those works that makes violists wish they had an E string.
Nonetheless, hats off to Mr Wigglesworth, whose businesslike approach and, in my opinion, clear beat, meant that, by the concert, everyone knew what they were supposed to be doing! It was also fabulous to work with Joanna MacGregor. Not only does she have amazing shoes, and impeccable hair, but surely, to get through that piano part, she must have four hands, or at least six fingers and two thumbs on each hand.
For me, the highlight of the concert was Debussy's La Mer. It isn't a work I've particularly enjoyed before (I've always had a love/hate relationship with playing French music), but on this occasion, I felt I could get beyond the little fidgety details and enjoy the music itself.
After the concert, it was back onto the coach for the drive back to Cardiff. One day off, and back into rehearsals for the next Prom.