Site Search


Other Resources
News Archive






17 Jan  

Our congratulations to Rebecca Saunders, who has won the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize. The award of €250,000 is made each year to a composer, performer or musicologist who has made a distinguished contribution to contemporary music. Sometimes called the ‘Nobel Prize for Music,’ it has been criticised for failing to honour women musicians—Saunders is only the second female to have won since it began in 1974. 

 

A recent Saunders Premiere: Yes, for soprano, 19 soloists and conductor





10 Jan  
  by  AndyR

I read Christian’s blog on the Brexit situation while sitting overlooking the deepest Canyon in Latin America, enjoying the sun and the warmth of a Costa Rican morning and thought ‘why are British composers in particular so glum and ridiculously insular in their support and backing for the crumbling, stagnating EU superstate?’ I found it strange because, for political, social, economic, cultural and, above all, musical reasons, I was and am a firm believer in leaving the EU. I know that I am considered by many to be wrong in my attitudes, but take a few minutes to assess why I voted to leave and why I consider the EU a constraining, autocratic dead horse that we should never have been attached to in the first place.

I re-read with even more interest Christian’s original blog that sounded-out the views of composers in the wake of the Brexit vote. These were predominantly in support of the EU and appeared surprised by the vote to leave. To use a very old adage: “Wake Up And Smell The Coffee!” What were they so surprised at? It was no surprise to me or many other people outside of the Home Counties who were totally sick to the back teeth of Europe: its meddling, unelected leaders dictating to us what we should and should not be doing when they have absolutely no idea about our nation. A prime example of this is the EU’s attempt to destroy the British Union by breaking Northern Ireland away from the rest of country. I am sure the Spanish would not be best pleased if we were to interfere in supporting Catalonia’s attempts at independence or to support a Flemish independence attempt to break up Belgium, so why is it such a surprise to London-centric based composers that many people felt the way they do towards the EU?

To quote from John Palmer’s entry in that original blog:

“But it is equally true that the current European Union is not a transparent and democratic institution. Who of us really wants to be ruled by two governments: a national one that is losing its sovereignty year after year and a super-government made by people in Brussels we don't know, who haven’t been elected by us, and who dictate to us what they decide? I have often experienced the structural heaviness and the corruption of the state-based culture that prevails on the Continent. I have come to terms with the fact that the majority of Continental people do not see this, simply because they do not know, they have never experienced, a different kind of democracy, one that is more liberal and based on the freedom of the individual. In this sense Britain remains, indeed, different to Continental Europe.”

I wholeheartedly agree with John Palmer in this assessment of what the EU is like. Dogmatic, undemocratic in a British sense of the term, autocratic (unelected bankers running the show) and one that is at odds with Britain’s ancient Anglo-Saxon and Celtic sense of fair play and liberal democracy.

As a composer my music has been played all over the world, and in particular Latin America and the German-speaking world. I am no isolationist or jingoistic nationalist. As a person I have two stepsons who have lived and worked in Europe (one still does), are married to German women and are very pro-Europe. I have very dear friends across Europe who find it hard to understand the British, so people find it a great surprise when I say I voted for Brexit when I have such close ties to the continent itself. It is nothing to do with the idea of Europe at all (that is a great ideal that I do support, just not politically) it is to do with individual freedoms and ideas that are being eroded by the interference by Europe in how we run our own country and our own affairs. We are not the same as the Bulgarians; Germans are not the same as the Greeks, so why must we all kowtow to unelected bureaucrats telling us that it is better that we act like the French, become more Polish and think like the Italians? Homogeneity stifles free thought, freedoms and unique creativity.

Not so long ago my youngest stepson pointed to the Symphony Hall in Birmingham on a visit back home and stated that if it hadn’t been for the £53 million given to us by the European Union then it would never have been built. Maybe, maybe not, but what of the other millions we have paid to Europe that we didn’t get back? Money that could have been used to build at least another three great halls, to finance our orchestras or to commission new works? Instead, this money has been sent to the EU to be wasted on wine lakes and cheese mountains while paying subsidies to Greek mountain goat farmers not to produce any more goats.

I am constantly struck by the dogmatic slogans of Remainers, who say that I am a racist, I am blinkered, or that I am narrow-minded for supporting the break from Europe. Well I am pleased to inform all these uninformed ideologues that I am none of the above. I love different cultures, have visited many nations in the world on my musical journeys and have written works using scales and rhythms that have had an impact upon me there. My Second Symphony uses the Byzantine Empire as its ‘raison d’être,’ employing Greek scales and Turkish makams at its core. I support culturally the divergences and differences found in the world, which all add to what makes it so interesting, Europe included—or what is left of the cultural differences in it, that is.

As for being narrow-minded of a Little England mentality, it is not I or the Leavers who are being narrow-minded but the Remainers, as they are blinkered into believing that the EU is the world, when in fact it is a tiny region in a much bigger, more diverse and more exciting world. Leavers voted for many reasons, but a hatred of the EU ideal was not one of them in most cases, nor a narrow-mindedness in the view of Europe or the world. Nor was it from a sense of a desire for isolationism. Far from it.

Many younger composers look at the few composers of my generation who voted to leave as traitors to their cause. They look accusingly as if we have just destroyed their hopes of a future, but if they were actually to stop hurling their left-wing rhetoric at us for one minute and listen to what we have to say they may actually begin to see there is a much bigger future out there than they would ever get with just the EU. They need to begin to see the bigger picture outside of Europe and the great opportunities it actually presents for the musical arts. Most Remainers appear terrified by this fabulous opportunity to see new horizons, preferring their own dogmatic belief that Europe is the only way forward when in fact it is a region that is unsympathetic to new music. Europe may have created most of the world’s great music of the past but that was as independent, uniquely cultural states, not as a homogenous, uninteresting, bland, faceless and bureaucratic union of similar states. Where are the brave new composers that were spawned before the EU truly came into existence, where are the new Boulez’s, Stockhausen’s, Messiaen’s, Ligeti’s, Lutoslawski’s, Maxwell-Davies’s, Berio’s? Nowhere and why? The answer is simple and quite obvious if you remove the blue flag and gold-star blindfold for just one minute. Everyone is scared of being an individual in case they are called an anti-European ideologue and so the music has become bland, dismally similar and uninteresting in most cases. In other words, in its striving to create a single monotonous, monochrome state, slavishly trying to emulate the USA, Europe has stifled its own originality and genius. There is a world out there begging for great, well-written, original music if we just look out over the parapet of the narrow-minded Eurocentric view.

We should be looking forward to a new beginning—most nations don’t get that opportunity—instead of hiding under the petticoats of the EU. If people cannot make the grade then I am sorry, you chose the wrong profession. I constantly read how depressing it all is for the Remain composers today… well get over it and see how it was for those of us who have had to put up with and suffer 45 years of constant degradation, sterility and erosion by Europe. Now it has changed, a new order is about to begin. So stop whining and accept the new future as we had to for all of those years. Accept it with grace, as we have had to do for those 45 years. This is a new dawn, so let us make the most of the opportunity we have to sell ourselves in the whole world, not just minnow-sized Europe. This is no step backwards but a great leap forward.

The only downside for me, as it is for everyone, is the fact that the current government seems totally incapable of negotiating a new and brighter future for the country, scared stiff to cut the apron strings, which is actually doing more damage to the country than if they were stronger in their decisions. Europe has not helped matters by being its usual dogmatic and blind self. I feel that no party in this country has the answer and Mrs. May has been dealt a bad hand in all this; in many ways it was not of her doing. But it still could have been handled better. It is not only damaging us, but Europe as well, and none of us voted for the failure which it seems we are now being offered.

As far as a second referendum…that is totally undemocratic. The vote was cast. Now it must be acted upon. Otherwise do we have a ‘best of three’ or continue until the vote goes the way desired by the Remainers? This could lead to civil unrest, if not worse. That would be totally European (see Ireland and Denmark’s rejections of, respectively, the Maastricht and Lisbon treaties) but totally un-British.

We all wait with bated breath in the hope something can be salvaged from the chaos that we have now created. Fingers crossed and let’s enjoy the ride!





10 Jan  

  John Joubert

British-South African composer John Joubert died on 7th January. He was 91.

Joubert was born in Cape Town, South Africa and educated in the Anglican Diocesan College in Rondebosch. He began to compose around the age of 15 under the influence of his music teacher Claude Brown, continuing his studies at the South African College of Music with William Henry Bell and at the Royal Academy in London with Theodore Holland, Howard Ferguson and Alan Bush. In 1950 he was appointed as a lecturer at Hull University, moving to the University of Birmingham in 1962. He took early retirement in 1982 in order to concentrate on composing.

Joubert established his composing career with his carol O Lorde, the Maker of Al Thing, which won the Novello anthem competition in 1952. This and subsequent choral works Torches (1951) and There is No Rose (1954) quickly entered the repertoire. Of Torches, Joubert said ‘I’ve even had carol-singers come to the door and singing it, without knowing the composer lives inside." As well as continuing to write church music, Joubert also made significant contributions to the wider English choral tradition in several oratorios: Urbs Beata (1963), The Raising of Lazarus (1970), Wings of Faith (2000/2003) and An English Requiem (2010).

Joubert’s style is grounded in the English music that he studied as a young man, including the works of Elgar, Parry and Stanford, though his mature style encompasses Britten, Walton, Janáček, Shostakovich, Stravinsky and others. As with these figures he was comfortable writing in many genres; his output also includes a variety of chamber music, including three string quartets, three symphonies and concertos for violin, piano, bassoon and cello. He wrote seven operas, including Silas Marner (1961), Under Western Eyes (1968), The Prisoner (1973) and Jane Eyre (1987–1997). 

Joubert received Honorary Doctorates from University of Durham in 1991 and from University of Birmingham in 2007. He continued to compose well into his retirement, his St Mark Passion, for example, being premiered by the Choir of Wells Cathedral on his 89th birthday. At the age of 90 when asked if he had plans for any further major compositions, he wryly remarked ‘If somebody came forward to offer me a major commission with a substantial fee and a suitably distant deadline I might well be tempted…’

John Joubert: Symphony No. 2





6 Jan  

C:T Talks to composer Bushra El-Turk, whose work 'Mosaic' will be performed by the Pro Youth Philharmonia as part of a series of New Year Concerts exploring themes of 'hope' in an uncertain world.
 

Bushra El-Turk

Tell us a little about the Pro Youth Philharmonia.

International flautist Wissam Boustany founded the Pro Youth Philharmonia training orchestra on the principle of music having the ability to transform lives. His aim was to create a non-competitive environment for advanced music students and emerging professionals to explore and develop their individual talents, with an emphasis on nurture and encouragement.

Before the concerts during the rehearsals, everyone involved is encouraged to engage in workshops and debates on various musical, humanitarian and philosophical topics. This approach is an important part of the orchestra's ethos, ensuring that an "adventurous, inspired and functional atmosphere" is engendered between participants. 

How did you come to be involved with the group?

Ten years have passed since Wissam commissioned me to write him and his duo partner Aleks Szram, a piece for flute and piano, 'Marionette'. It's exciting to collaborate together again. He is such a tremendous force in music, a great musician and a wonderful mind. 

>> Read the rest of the interview





1 Jan  

For the perspective of a UK citizen, it is hard not to look forward to the coming weeks and months without a sense of trepidation. At some point in January, presumably before the 21st, Theresa May’s EU divorce treaty will finally be presented to the House of Commons. The future of the country will depend very much upon the outcome of that vote. If it is finally accepted, the UK will leave the EU on 29th March, even though the final shape of the future relationship remains, shall we say, ‘nebulous.’ If it is voted down it opens the possibility of a disruptive ‘no-deal’ exit or no Brexit at all. It must be considered a complete failure of government that the final outcome is still so unclear.

 

Why is this relevant to us? As musicians we cannot divorce ourselves from political events—what goes on in the political arena eventually affects us all. A weakened economy means less money for the arts, the removal of free movement threatens our ability to collaborate and work across borders. If this seems depressing, then we should also acknowledge that social turbulence provides opportunities.  Art can provide a vital service in terms of social commentary. It can also provide an all-too-welcome means of escape. 

 

There is also, as ever, much to look forward to in the year to come. Living composers with birthday celebrations include Enno Poppe (50th), James Macmillan (60th), John Casken (70th), Heinz Hollinger (80th) and Georg Crumb (90th). It is also 50 years since the death of great German philosopher and occasional composer Theodor Adorno. There are a plethora of new works and the usual round of festivals. You can see complete picks of some of these below. 

 

In the meantime, wherever you are, I wish you a prosperous, musically productive and, above all, Happy New Year. 

 

January

 

11th Errollyn Wallen and Oliver Christophe Leith, New Work (World Premieres). The Hermes Experiment, St. James Clerkenwell, London.

13th Beat Furrer, Violetter Schnee (World Premiere). Staatsoper, Berlin.

17th Max Richter, New Work (World Premiere). Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Concertgebouw, Netherlands.

20th Matthias Pintscher, New Work for Piano and Ensemble (World Premiere). Pierre Boulez Saal, Berlin. 

31st Stuart MacRae, Anthropocene (World Premiere). Scottish Opera, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh.

 

February

 

6th Colin Matthews, Octet (World Premiere). Britten Sinfonia, Wigmore Hall, London.

9th Gavin Bryars, Requiem (World Premiere). Dutch National Ballet, Waterlooplein 22, Amsterdam.

12th–17th Festival Présences, including a portrait of Wolfgang Rihm.

16th Anno Schreier Schade, dass sie eine Hure war... (Tis pity she’s a whore). Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Opernhaus, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany

19th Composition Wales Culmination concert. Hear the latest in composition in Wales, as composers worthy of wider exposure have the opportunity to hear their works performed by the BBCNOW.

22nd–24th Peninsular Arts Contemporary Music Festival 2019. The theme is Multiverse.

23rd Robin Holloway, Trumpet Concerto (World Premiere). Håkan Hardenberger, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, UK.

28th Yuzo Toyama, Symphony (World Premiere). Symphony Hall, Osaka, Japan. 

 

 

March

 

2nd BBSO Total Immersion: Ligeti. Barbican, London. 

7th John Adams, Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? (World Premiere). Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, California. 

12th Unsuk Chin, Gran Cadenza for Two Violins (US Premiere) and Sebastian Currier, Piano Trio (World Premiere). Carnegie Hall, NYC.

24th Shin Donghoon, New Work (World Premiere). LSO, Barbican, London.

25th Panufnik Composers Scheme Workshop. LSO St Luke's, London.

 

Also in March (dates to be announced)

 

Zeit für Neue Musik Festival

 

April

 

4th Poul Ruders, Accordion Concerto (World Premiere). Danish National Symphony Orchestra, DR Koncerthuset, Copenhagen, Denmark.

13th–28th Aix en Provence Easter Festival.

14th George Crumb, New Work for Percussion Quintet. Lincoln Centre, NYC. Part of George Crumb at 90 celebration.

24th Hèctor Parra, Les Bienveillantes (World Premiere). Opera Vlaanderen, Antwerp, Belgium.

25th John Luther Adams, Become Desert (European Premiere) and Peter-Jan Wagemans, Love, Baby Love (World Premiere). Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, De Doelen: Grote Zaal, Rotterdam.

28th Detlev Glanert, Oceane (World Premiere). Deutsche Oper Berlin, Germany.

 

 

May

1st Harrison Birtwistle, New Work (World Premiere). London Symphony Orchestra, Barbican, London.

2nd Louis Andriessen, The Only One (World Premiere). Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles. 

4th Sebastian Currier, Aether for violin and orchestra (World Premiere). Baiba Skride, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Hall, Boston. 

10th–26th Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

12th–4th June Prague Spring International Music Festival.

17th Tansy Davies, New Work (World Premiere). Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.

17th–26th Bath Festival.

18th–24th Vale of Glamorgan Festival.

24th–31st St. Davids Cathedral Festival.

30th Bernhard Lang HERMETIKA IX ‘vox angeli II’ (World Premiere). Nadar Ensemble, Concertgebouw, Bruges.

 

Also in May (details tbc)

 

The Festival of English Music.

 

June

 

2nd Music of Today: Composers' Academy (3 World Premieres). Hear pieces from Philharmonia Orchestra’s composing programme. Philharmonia, Royal Festival Hall, London.

5th Max Richter, New Work (World Premiere). Aurora Orchestra, QE Hall, London.

7th–23rd Aldeburgh Music Festival

9th Liam Mattison, New Work (World Premiere). LSO, Barbican Hall, London.

15th Mark Simpson, Clarinet Concerto (World Premiere). Bridgewater Hall, London. 

21st–27th St. Magnus International Festival.

25th Jorge Argüelles, Como un juego de niños (World Premiere). Auditorio Nacional de Música, Madrid.

 

Also in June (details tbc)

 

Spitalfields Music Festival

Gregynog Festival

 

July

 

2nd Fernando Valázquez, Cantata del solsticio de verano (World Premiere). Orquesta de la Comunidad de Madrid, Auditorio Nacional de Música, Madrid.

5th–21st Buxton Festival. A marriage of opera, books and music, including some by contemporary composers. Buxton, Derbyshire.

6th–1st September Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival

8th–20th Soundscape. Maccagno, Italian Alps.

15th Elena Kats-Chernin, Whiteley (World Premiere). Opera Australia, Sydney Opera House, Sydney.

19th-14th September BBC Proms. Programme not currently available, but there will be premières aplenty.

20th–31st August Salzburg Festival.

 

Other July festivals (dates tbc):

 

Schlern International Music Festival

Tête à Tête Opera Festival. Described as ‘our most imaginative opera laboratory’, the festival focuses entirely on new music. 

‘Aix en Provence Festival. ‘Aix en Provence, France. 

 

August

2nd–26th Edinburgh International Festival. Programme not yet available, but there is usually a good selection of new music.

5th–7th High Score Festival. Contemporary music festival and classes. Pavia, Italy.

22rd–27th Presteigne Festival. Artistic innovation, musical discovery and, of course, new works in the Welsh Marches. Presteigne, Powys. 

 

September

 

6th–29th Beethovenfest, Bonn.

 

Also in September (dates tbc):

13th–22nd Oslo Contemporary Music Festival.

27th Francesco Filidei, L’innondation (World Premiere). Opéra Comique, Salle Favart, Paris. 

 

October

 

Also in October (dates tbc):

Wien Modern. Festival that focuses on contemporary music. Vienna, Austria.

Sound. North East Scotland’s Festival of New Music. Various venues.

Festival 20/21 and Transit. Leuven, Belgium. 

 

November

 

9th Tansy Davies, New Work. Elaine Mitchener, London Sinfonietta. Kings Place: Hall One, London.

15th–24th Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

22nd Ed Frazier Davis, New Work (World Premiere). Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Arts Centre, Melbourne. 

28th Judith Bingham, String Quartet (World Premiere). Sacconi Quartet. Kings Place: Hall One, London.

 

December

 

4th Nico Muhly, Concerto for Violin and Strings (World Premiere). Australian Chamber Orchestra, Melbourne Recital Centre, Melbourne.

 

Also in December (date tbc):

 

Spitalfields Winter Festival.





13 Dec  

In 2018 C:T celebrated Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday; congratulated the many composers who received honours, awards and prizes; reviewed recordings; interviewed composers and mourned the loss of some much-loved colleagues. 

 

It was also hard to ignore the ongoing political fiasco that was Brexit…

 

January started with the Department for Exiting the EU releasing its Creative Industries Sector Report. It showed that, amongst these industries music is uniquely exposed, given that in terms of its exports, 56% go to the EU, compared to 45% for all creative industries and 39.4% in the UK as a whole. Unsurprisingly Britain’s creative leaders urged the UK government to retain freedom of movement, a request that fell on deaf ears. Elsewhere a storm brewed over a school charging pupils to study GCSE music. At the end of the month C:T chatted to Nigel Osborne, an inspirational composer who had just been recognised for his humanitarian work.

 

  Jóhann Jóhannsson

In February composers László Melis and Jóhann Jóhannsson died. At just 48 the loss of Jóhannsson, an exceptional film music composer, was a particular blow. An article on another site made me question the veracity of some composition competitions, including those listed on our own site. Caveat Emptor. There were congratulations, meanwhile, for composer Kaija Saariaho, who was announced as the winner of the 10th edition of the BBVA Foundation Contemporary Music Award.

 

Having been blown away by a small piece included on a Christmas CD, I had been keen to interview composer Sadie Harrison. I finally got round to this in March. It was also the month in which I discovered the music of Philip Venables through his debut CD, Below the Belt. One of the works felt like an anthem for our times.
 

In April Mark-Anthony’s children’s opera Coraline, had a mauling from Telegraph critic Hugh Canning. This led to a Twitter spat and Turnage promising to quit opera. Canning did his best to apologise:

 

We mourned the death of three composers: Canadian Robert Joseph Rosen, Briton James Wishart and American Donald H. Keats. Veteran composer and teacher Samuel Adler, meanwhile, was celebrating his 90th birthday and Jennifer Higdon the receipt of the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize in Music Composition. On 23rd I chatted to German composer Moritz Eggert about his life, motivations and new CD.

 

In May we learned that Paul Kildea’s hypothesis that Benjamin Britten died of syphilis was probably not accurate. We also learned that most composers seems to have died from the disease. Except that they probably didn’t either. Of more immediate import was the sad loss of two other composers: New York-based Matt Marks, who was only 38 and Glenn Branca, who was 69.

 

In June it was announced that the BBC, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, were to leave their iconic Maida Vale Studios. I chatted to British composer Edward Gregson who, ten years into retirement from a distinguished academic career, was and is composing more vigorously than ever. There were congratulations, meanwhile, for PRS Open Fund and Women Make Music recipients and also for Péter Eötvös, who won Germany’s Goethe Medal.  

 

     Oliver Knussen

July began with a real body-blow: the death of British composer and conductor Oliver Knussen at the age of just 66. There was an outpouring of tributes on social media. C:T marked the 50th birthday of British composer Kenneth Hesketh with an interview in which he reflected upon his work to date, current inspirations and the things he wished he'd known when starting out. There were more Brexit worries as the director of the Womad Fesitival complained about the ‘difficult and humiliating’ visa process for visiting performers—a process that might also apply to European nationals playing in the UK (and vice versa). In his 100th birthday year an electrifying Bernstein video was doing the rounds on social media…

 

In August I reflected further on the Womad controversy and why we should all be worried about Brexit. I also discovered a project aiming to unearth lost masterpieces written by forgotten female composers. There were congratulations for composers selected for the LSO Soundhub and Jerwood Composer+ and sadness at the loss of Israeli composer, conductor and teacher Noam Sheriff at the age of 83. 

 

In September I interviewed one of the UK’s bright young things, composer Kemal Yusuf, who also co-founded the London Graduate Orchestra. We learned that less money after Brexit was likely to culturally impoverish the very areas that voted for it. At the end of the month the Musicians’ Union called for a special post-Brexit touring visa for musicians. I looked forward to Leuven’s Festival 20/21 and interviewed one of its artistic directors, Maarten Beirens

 

October began with the rather encouraging news that Simon Rattle had ‘discovered’ a nonagenarian composer. This caused me to wonder just exactly who she was? A few days latter came the terrible shock of learning that Janáček scholar John Tyrrell had died. He had been a wonderful friend and support to me and many others at Cardiff University. In the middle of the month I attended the Transit Festival, part of Leuven’s Festival 20/21. There was much to enjoy. On 20th 700,000 people marched for a people’s vote on the final Brexit deal.

 

The People’s March had been roughly timed to coincide with the expected ‘meaningful vote’ on May’s deal with the EU, but the negotiations dragged on into November. When she eventually brought the deal back, on 15th all hell broke loose. Amidst the furore on 16th–25th the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival got on with the business of making music, with 15 world premieres. At the end of the month I interviewed composer Philip Venables, who spoke with with wit and honesty about his life, works and the UK’s political predicament.

 

December began with many congratulations to this year’s British Composer Award winners. A peak below this blog also reveals my review of Jon Deak’s splendid Passion of the Scrooge.

 

Politically December has so far been as unnerving as any other Brexit month. When will the chaos stop?





7 Dec  

Jon Deak’s The Passion of Scrooge or A Christmas Carol, for baritone and ensemble is a setting of Charles Dickens’ well-loved seasonal story, written back in 1997/8. The libretto, which was prepared by the composer in collaboration with Isaiah Sheffer, is traditional in its approach, preserving the story’s essential elements—Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and the visitation of the three spirits. What elevates this setting is Deak’s brilliantly atmospheric score, which skilfully integrates everything from Hollywood schmaltz to Schoenbergian monodrama.

 

This new version was made by independent filmmaker H. Paul Moon, the same man who put together Absolute Beauty, a superb life of Samuel Barber back in 2017. The filming of the work itself is done with grace and a wealth of musical understanding, camera angles and instrumental spotlighting feeling natural and unintrusive. At key moments Moon also chooses to cut in scenes from the 1935 cinematic adaption of the story, Scrooge. These help to set the scene, even though it is debatable whether they are necessary in a story this familiar.

 

There is a further element that is more problematic. The film is billed as an ‘opera within an opera.’ In this second layer the action cuts away from the stage performance to the composer, who appears to muse upon the act of composition and to draw parallels between Dickens’ story and his own life. The problem is that this element feels grafted on, not properly integrated. As such it interrupts the drama, breaking rather enhancing the spell cast by the work.

 

Performances are excellent. Soloist William Sharp is an effervescent presence, carrying the drama with passion, persuasion and good acting chops. The 21st century consort play stylishly under the direction of Christopher Kendall.

 

Without the ‘opera within an opera’ this recording would have been an easy Christmas recommendation. As it stands it is worth considering, just understand that there are caveats. 

 





5 Dec  

Congratulations to this year’s British Composer Award winners, who were announced in a ceremony at the British Museum last night. There were twelve categories, with the winners as follows:

 

Amateur or Young Performers

Microscopic Dances by Oliver Searle

 

Chamber Ensemble

Libro di fiammelle e ombre by James Weeks

 

Choral

In the Land of Uz by Judith Weir

 

Community or Educational Project

The Umbrella by Liam Taylor-West

 

Jazz Composition for Large Ensemble

Afronaut by Cassie Kinoshi

 

Jazz Composition for Small Ensemble

Close to Ecstasy by Simon Lasky

 

Orchestral

Deep Time by Harrison Birtwistle

 

Small Chamber

Unbreathed by Rebecca Saunders

 

Solo or Duo

The Harmonic Canon by Dominic Murcott

 

Sonic Art

Halfway to Heaven by Emily Peasgood

 

Stage Works

Shorelines by Oliver Coates

 

Wind Band or Brass Band

The Turing Test by Simon Dobson

 

In addition there were two special categories presented to those who have made a special contribution to new music:

 

British Composer Award for Innovation

Trevor Wishart

 

British Composer Award for Inspiration in association with the Music Publishers Association

Sally Beamish

 

More information available here.





27 Nov  

Christian Morris talks to composer Philip Venables. One of the most exciting voices of his generation, his works fearlessly confront issues of sexuality, politics, gender and violence. In 2017 he won a British Composer Award for his opera 4.48 Psychosis and his recently premiered Concerto for Violin, Venables Plays Bartok received critical acclaim after its premiere at the BBC Proms.
 

Philip Venables, photo Harald Hoffman

Tell us something about your background.

I was born and grew up in Chester. I'm not from a musical family so I started learning the violin in primary school through the county music service. Then I was at a state comprehensive school with, luckily, a very good Head of Music who encouraged my composing. But I then went to study science as an undergraduate. That was ok, but then, after my degree, I decided I wanted to do composing seriously, so I went to the Royal Academy to do a Masters. That was really when I started composing properly, more than as a hobby. 

So your early experience was through free tuition...

Yes, I even got a free violin, or at least very cheaply, I seem to remember. In fact the lessons weren't totally free - we paid a small amount, but it certainly was really accessible. 


How did you start composing? What persuaded you to compose rather than, say, play the violin.

Well I was a terrible violinist! There was that! 

>> Click here to read the full interview





22 Nov  

This years’s Spitalfields Music Festival (1st–9th Dec) will examine the connections that span many centuries and genres of English music, seeking out connections between old and new. 

 

On 4th the Coveyard, a group of musicians ‘committed to rearrangement, reinterpretation and reinvention’ will explore the songs of Henry Purcell through the prism of rock music. There will be five productions (4th–9th) of composer Shiva Feshareki’s site-site-specific work Unknown, Rememebered, which combines Handel’s La Lucrezia with a setting of lyrics by Joy Division and Haroon Mirza’s film installation The Last Tape. The music of an American composer with a profound understanding of the English choral tradition, Nico Muhly, will be explored alongside music by Renaissance masters John Sheppard and Thomas Tallis on 7th. 

 

There will also be a focus upon Canadian musicians and composers. These include the music of Nicole Lizée, Christopher Mayo and Richard Reed Parry in a concert on 5th. Parry’s piece is based upon his own heartbeat, an idea that has been taken as a starting point for a composing project with local primary schools performed on the previous day.

 

On 6th there will be an another chance to experience a site-specific work by Shiva Feshareki, her GABA-analogue, in which the audience will be invited to walk amongst the players and around the space. The concert will also include Anna Meredith’s Barchan and a performance of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. 

The festival takes place in venues across Tower Hamlets, London.








Archive
 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  | ... |  57  |