Friday 8 March 2013

New Welsh music with the BBC orchestra

Having your own music played by a reputable orchestra is an opportunity that probably only comes once in a life time for many contemporary composers. Four Welsh composers of contemporary classical music were in luck this week as they had a chance to attend workshops with the BBC National Orchestra rehearsing their own scores.

On the next day, Jac Van Steen and the BBC orchestra presented the results of their hard work at the Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff to the public. The pieces were impressive, the playing flawless and the event itself gave a unique insight into the joy composers must feel when their pieces are performed live.

Although of varying quality, all four pieces demonstrated real effort and quality, if not always imagination. Three of them were mostly atmospheric in character and largely in the impressionistic camp, and Yfat Soul Zisso's piece certainly stood out from the crowd through its depth and complexity. Her work is certainly one to watch, though we may not hear much of her in this country as she is Greek, rather than Welsh.

Michael Parkin's piece certainly snatched the price for most imagination, pulling no punches and almost blasting the audience into submission with an impressive crescendo.

The real star of the event however has once again been the BBC Orchestra of Wales under Jac Van Steen. The orchestra has pulled out all the stops for the last couple of years to accommodate contemporary classical music in its repertoire as much as possible. That is no mean feat given that this music does not always draw a crowd. Both Jac Van Steen and his colleagues richly deserves praise for their efforts to bring modern classical music to an appreciative Welsh audience.

The Hoddinott Hall - brilliant acoustics in pleasant surroundings

As my time in Cardiff (and Wales) is coming to an end, I also realise how much I will miss the Hoddinott Hall. Though small, its excellent acoustics make it one of the top performance venues for classical music in Britain. The clarity of sound and bright but warm timbre of the hall reminds me of Hans Scharoun's Chamber Music Hall in Berlin. It also has no contender in the St David's Hall whose sound is often mushy and noisy at best. The Hoddinott Hall is truly a marvel amongst performance venues and I hope the BBC Orchestra of Wales will grace it with its fantastic play more than ever.

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