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Cardiff Bay

I should know by now not to predict these things, but my new Oboe Concerto received an expectably assured performance from its dedicatee Celia Craig in Cardiff last week. You can never predict an orchestra however, and it was a pleasant surprise to work with BBC NOW for the first time. The players, led by Lesley Hatfield, were solicitious and imaginative in creating the orchestral surroundings for Celia – who had herself taken the imaginative step of standing in for the currently vacant first oboe position in the previous week, thus thoroughly getting to know the musicians she would be performing in front of. Listeners to the live broadcast mentioned the feeling of chamber-like ensemble, and I guess that’s how this came about (under conductor Andrew Gourlay’s generous direction, of course.)

What I couldn’t have guessed at the time of writing the concerto was what musical work would precede it in a concert performance. In a recent post I wrote about the composer’s wish for appropriate music to follow a live performance of his/her composition – so that a carefully created atmosphere is not suddenly diffused by something wildly un-related, etc. But the audience, I now realise, has a much greater need for a helpfully placed piece preceding a new work. Here in Cardiff, the choice of L’après midi d’un faune as a concert opener was so left-field and yet perfectly judged, that I’ll remember to ask for it again if I ever get the chance. Despite the fact that I hadn’t given this piece, or Debussy really, any conscious thought at all for years, it seemed to explain nearly every harmonic event in the opening movement of the Oboe Concerto. But, as a thoughtful fellow-composer recently said to me, ‘by the time Debussy had finished, classical music was complete’ (he later agreed that Ravel had also managed to add a little final something to this great 1000-year project.)




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