Laura Sinnerton, Viola player from the National Orchestra of Wales, describes her feelings before and after their latest performance at the Proms.
After a night of civil unrest, it was an uneasy London that the Orchestra coach rolled into just after lunchtime on Tuesday 9th August, for Prom 34. There was natural concern that fear of further trouble would impact on audience numbers, but with no one being gifted with psychic powers, it was important for us to simply get on with rehearsal and perform a great concert for whatever audience arrived.
Under the baton of our eternally exuberant Associate Guest Conductor, François-Xavier Roth, we presented a programme of Frank Bridge (two relatively unknown works, that were, to use a good Welsh term, 'lush'), a little bit of Dupré (no relation to the cellist, I'm told), Saint-Saëns' Organ Symphony (or the music to the film Babe, as 2nd Oboe Amy McKean informed me) and the London premiere of Centauromachy, by our Composer-in-Association Simon Holt.
Centauromachy is a double concerto for clarinet and flugelhorn (featuring two of our principals, Robert Plane and Philippe Schartz). Some people have only to hear the words contemporary music and they automatically switch off, throwing their hands in the air, saying how they just 'don't get' new music, but do you have to entirely 'get' something to be able to appreciate it?
I'll be honest with you, I struggle with contemporary works at times. Not so much in playing them, as I masochistically enjoy the challenge of conquering my part in them, but I often struggle to understand what the music is about. Sometimes when you get a new score, as a player you can feel so overwhelmed by how much is simply going on in the music, that perhaps we more than the audience itself, can be guilty of saying 'I don't get it', without really trying to. This is where a conductor like François, comes into his own. He has a true gift for deconstructing the music in rehearsal, helping you understand how one part relates to another and creating line and direction, where previously there had just been a lot of people getting closer and closer to their music stands in an effort to read all the notes.
To me, Centauromachy has moments of true pathos and drama. I won't pretend to understand everything about it, but it challenged me both as a musician and listener. Music is supposed to illicit a response, no matter what that response is. If it didn't, everyone would have album upon album of 'Music for Lifts -- the Ultimate Pan Pipe Experience' on their MP3 player (apologies to anyone who loves pan pipe music, or indeed, lift music).
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