Prokofiev Discover Day RSNO 7th November

When I was asked last year if I was interested in delivering one of the RSNO’s new Discover Days on Prokofiev, I immediately jumped at the chance. I’ve been giving pre-concert talks for a few seasons now and I love the opportunity that that gives me to meet our audience and to share my love of music. It would be a real pleasure to spend a whole day looking at one of the most enigmatic and talented composers of the 20th century.

Prokofiev is a fascinating character. Highly intelligent (a whizz at chess, apparently!), he wasn’t always the most patient man. Many found him aloof, even arrogant. Ploughing through archive material online, this comes across for me even in his appearance. Matisse captures his latent energy perfectly in this sketch:


Prokofiev’s energy comes across in his performances, too. There’s a wonderful recording online of him playing his 3rd Piano Concerto in 1932, which became something of a signature piece for him: he was a superb pianist as well as composer. The melodies are shaped with a beautiful rubato and yet there is a potent energy driving the music forward. You can listen to it here:

One thing that I am very much looking forward to on the Discover Days is discussing Romeo and Juliet (and, in Edinburgh, Cinderella) with Scottish Ballet’s conductor, Richard Honner. I played Romeo with Scottish Ballet and Richard back in the late 90s before I joined the RSNO and I know he shares my love of this music. We met a few weeks ago to swap ideas. I won’t spoil the day by telling you what we talked about, but I will tell you how much I enjoyed my tour of Scottish Ballet’s premises at Tramway – a far cry from West Princes Street, where the company was based in my time.

That brings me neatly onto the subject of our venue for the Discover Day in Glasgow: the RSNO’s New Home! Actually, I hardly know it myself yet – we’ve only been there for a week, but I can tell you that it is incredible! We are so fortunate to have it built for us.

So what are you waiting for? The chance to explore some wonderful music with me, to share the passion of Romeo and Juliet and to be one of the first people to see inside the RSNO’s New Home. I’ll see you there on 7th November!

To book, phone the RSNO on 0141 225 3552

Pre-concert talk on Arvo Pärt

One of the things I really love about giving pre-concert talks is being able to share new discoveries of mine with the RSNO audience, and hopefully enthuse them to go searching for new musical worlds themselves.

Last week was a real voyage of discovery for me. I’d previously felt a little put off Pärt’s music for two main reasons:

Firstly, the tag of “sacred minimalism”: I admit, I’m no great fan of minimalist music and, on top of that, this particular tag comes across to me as being a little trite. However, whilst Pärt’s music often uses simple textures and small units of music, it doesn’t have that incessant twitchiness and rapidly revolving short motifs that I find hard to cope with in other minimalist composers’ music! Rather it has a stillness and meditative quality about it which is really quite peaceful and beautiful.

Secondly, I don’t mind admitting as a viola player, that Pärt can be quite painful to play, as a lot of it involves static muscle-use! Sometimes it’s hard to get beyond that pain barrier and into the music itself.

The other revelation for me was that Pärt was more associated with the avant-garde in his earlier music. The Third Symphony that the RSNO performed last week is a transitional work between these styles. It was also dedicated to Neeme Järvi and in exploring the links between the two men, I came across Credo, the work that led in part to both musicians leaving Soviet-occupied Estonia. It was such a mind-blowing piece that I listened to it twice through in succession. 






Writing for the RSNO

As well as writing and translating, I also work as a full-time viola player with the RSNO. Part of my work there involves writing programme articles and giving pre-concert talks.

Now I’ve completed my MA I have a little more time available to do this and right now I’m thoroughly enjoying learning more about unfamiliar pieces, such as Messiaen’s Les Offrandes Oubliees, which we are performing in November. For more details, see the RSNO website. For Edinburgh:

For Glasgow:

Sometimes the hardest part is deciding what angle to take on a piece. This is particularly true when I’m writing my “Insight” articles for the programme, as these are more about personal reflections on a programme or piece, or the performance process from the player’s perspective. I was asked to write something on Vaughan Williams 5 and readily accepted, as it’s a piece I love, only to have to think long and hard about exactly how I was going to articulate that! You’ll have to wait until November for that one, but later this week I may share the contents of my article for the season opener!