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26 Jan  

The Royal Academy has announced the appointment of Hans Abrahamsen as the first Oliver Knussen Chair of Composition, with Ryan Wigglesworth becoming the Richard Rodney Bennett Professor of Music.

The Royal Academy's Principal, Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, commented:

‘As we say farewell to Oliver Knussen, a composer, conductor, teacher and polymath, we are delighted to honour him by creating a brand-new Chair of Composition in his name, to be conferred on the great Danish composer, Hans Abrahamsen.

‘Ryan Wigglesworth will assume Olly’s former position as the next Richard Rodney Bennett Professor of Music, as performer and composer. Both figures enjoyed close personal and working connections with Olly and I know he would be completely thrilled that Hans and Ryan have joined the Academy family. Ryan’s celebration concert in December featuring Olly’s The Way to Castle Yonder was a particularly moving and memorable tribute.

‘We look forward to continuing the legacy of a great musical creator through these new appointments.’

More information on the RAM website.

26 Jan  

The German city of Schwäbisch Gmünd has awarded John Rutter the €5000 European Church Music Prize. Their citation commended him for ‘his great contributions to the field of clerical music: John Rutter is currently one of the most important and popular representatives of the genre. His personal style is unmistakable - a great melodic ingenuity, complex harmonies and rhythms give Rutter's church music a suggestive power that touches both professional and amateur ensembles alike.’ 

The prize will be awarded in a ceremony on July 18th as part of the Schwäbisch Gmünd Festival of European Church Music.

24 Jan  

The death has been announced of German composer and pianist Helmut Bieler. He was 78. 


Bieler studied composition with Franz Xaver Lehner and piano with Friedrich Wührer and Aldo Schoen at the Staatlichen Hochschule für Musik, Munich. From 1967 he taught music at the Markgräfin-Wilhelmine-Gymnasium, Bayreuth before taking up a post at the University of Bayreuth in 1979, eventually retiring in 2004. 


In 1972 Bieler attended Darmstadt summer school on a course run my Helmut Lachenmann. He also joined the Eckiger Kreis group of composer and poets. With composer Helmut W. Erdmann, soprano Susanne Vill and percussionist Gerd Domhardt he founded the ensemble Musica Viva Bayreuth in 1980. In 1988 he founded the contemporary music festival Zeit für Neue Musik, which he directed with Wolfgang Graf.


Bieler wrote more than 100 works, including a chamber opera, concertos for piano and viola, pieces for solo voice and for choir and a large body of chamber solo keyboard works.


Schattierungen for flute and piano, by Helmut Bieler:

For further information:


Short biography and list of works

Wikipedia (English)

Wikipedia (German)

Publisher (Arends Musikverlage)


23 Jan  

The €20,000 Hindemith Prize, awarded each year by the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival has been awarded to Kazakh composer Aigerim Seilova. The festival artistic director and jury chairman said that her work has ‘original sound language that combines fascinating suspense and calm flow in a fascinating way.’


The prize will be awarded during this year’s festival (6th July–1st September), which will also feature some of her works.

17 Jan  

Brexit is not the only European issue that British composers should be thinking about right now. You may have seen, especially from platforms such as YouTube, a concerted action against a draft EU Directive, known as Article 13:


Article 13, at its core, requires that websites observe copyright laws on the content that they host. This means that they cannot argue that they are merely a ‘platform’, with no responsibility for individual user’s posts. If a creator’s work ends up on the platform, the creator must be compensated, unless they wish to waive their fees. It also means that platforms would become responsible for copyright infractions, including of musical works. YouTube argues that to police such content—300 hours of videos are posed every minute—would be impossible. Others have suggested that the law might even render animated gifs and memes, which often use copyrighted material, liable and, consequently, threaten freedom of speech.


However, it is the case that performing rights organisations who have the responsibility of paying composers, including the the Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs de Musique in France and PRS in the UK have been been in favour of Article 13. They and others have argued that at present platforms do not pay artists a fair sum for the content that appears on their pages—they are earning revenue that should rightly belong to the creators. They also argue that many of the objections of the platforms are a smokescreen to protect their profits. They say, for example, that Article 13 won’t affect individual users (because rights issues will be taken care of by the platform); parodies and memes are already covered by copyright exemptions; that not-for-profit organisations (such as Wikipedia) are likely to be exempt; that small businesses will also be exempt; and that rather than stifling creativity, it is likely to encourage it, since creators will be able to earn more money from their content.


Whether any of this is likely to apply to the UK is an open question, of course. Article 13 currently exists in three draft forms, as proposed by the European Commission and modified by the European Council and European Parliament. The three sides are currently engaged in a ‘trialogue’ to arrive at a definite text. If this is agreed and ratified before the European elections in May, it becomes a Directive that has to be transposed into member state laws within two years. Even once outside the EU, however, it seems likely that the UK is likely to fall into its regulatory orbit. As such it may be the case that Article 13 leads to new online revenue opportunities for composers over the medium term. 


For an explanation of Article 13 and it’s implications this excellent video is worth checking out (French but subtitled):

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. 




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.




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. 





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




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.




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.




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




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. 



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. 




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. 




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. 




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.




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.

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