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I think there should be a competition at the end of these concerts...

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 10:00 UK time, Friday, 10 February 2012

I know I've said it a few times, but it is so cold! I can't decide what to wear to work at all - I'm freezing outside and I'm too warm in the studio. I feel like I'm wearing all of my clothes at once. In addition to this, I'm finding it really difficult to warm up in the mornings.

As a child, I suffered from very severe chilblains on both my hands and feet due to bad circulation (and dodgy 1980s Northern Irish lack of decent central heating, no doubt) and, although things have improved, I still feel like I have to spend longer than normal warming up when the weather is like this.

This Friday and Saturday, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales will be playing in St David's Hall, Cardiff and the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea respectively. With principal guest conductor, Jac van Steen, violinist, Akiko Suwanai, mezzo soprano, Jane Irwin and the BBC National Chorus of Wales (just returned from their performance at the Southbank Centre with our Wales Millennium Centre neighbours, the National Dance Company Wales) we will be bringing a Sibelius double bill topped off with some Elgar that will hopefully take everyone's mind off the cold!

Sibelius' final symphonic poem, Tapiola (not to be confused with the frog spawn-like, gluten-free dessert, Tapioca), takes its name from the god of the forest in Finnish mythology. To me, the music is not as accessible as the earlier tone poems such as En Saga, Finlandia, or my favourite one, Pohjola's Daughter (lovely solo cello opening), but the music is unmistakably Sibelius.

This will be followed by Sibelius' ultimate ode to fire and ice, his Violin Concerto. Instrument buffs amongst you may be interested to know that soloist, Akiko Suwanai, plays the Dolphin Stradivarius, once owned by Jascha Heifetz. Akiko Suwanai was the youngest winner of the Tchaikovsky Concerto, triumphing in 1990 (the same year in which one of my favourite pianists, Boris Berezovsky, won the piano title of the same competition).

Interestingly, the version of the concerto that we know today is not the original version. When the work received its première, the soloist was not quite capable of getting around the concerto's considerable technical demands (neither was the orchestra) and the première was a bit of a disaster. So, poor Sibelius made some serious revisions and the work received a second première in Berlin with the great Richard Strauss conducting and violinist Karel Halíř proving a much more adequate soloist.

Rounding off the concert will be Elgar's The Music Makers (1912). The text of this work (by Arthur O'Shaughnessy) is notable for its romantic depiction of artistes - 'we are the music makers and the dreamers of dreams'. I'd love to say there will be a prize awarded at the end of the concert for whoever can spot and identify correctly the most number of quotes from other Elgar works, but there is a recession on and all that, so I don't think our management will go for that idea (sadly).

The Orchestra and Chorus play works by Sibelius and Elgar at St David's Hall, Cardiff, on Friday 10 February, and Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, on Saturday 11 February.


  • Comment number 1.

    Laura and BBCNOW friends, I am writing from the land of 'fire and ice' where the ice is currently winning. -12 degrees today without the brutal wind chill. I am here working with Sibelius's own Helsinki Philharmonic and so I want to say how much Tapiola captures the essence of this land so perfectly, at least in winter. There is a majestic and terrible beauty to these northern lands which we can only wonder about in Wales. My eyelashes froze on the way to rehearsal this morning, and yet there are still people camping out (under canvas) for 'occupy wallstreet ideals) outside the concert hall. I wish you all well in Swansea and Cardiff, and keep warm. Grant


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