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12 Nov  

On 9th November the Paul Hamlyn Foundation announced their Awards for Artists list for 2017. The Award, which provides ‘individuals with financial assistance at a timely moment in their careers’, has been running for 23 years, providing 150 artists with over £6m.


The composers who this year receive awards are: Laurence Crane, Mary Hampton, Leafcutter John, Serafina Steer and Byron Wallen.


From the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Website:


Over 200 guests from across the arts sector and beyond joined us alongside guest speaker Jarvis Cocker for the announcement of this year’s recipients. Chief Executive, Moira Sinclair, welcomed attendees and revealed that the number of awards for composers has risen from three to five, bringing them in line with those for visual artists. The amount awarded to each artist in both art forms has also increased from £50,000 to £60,000 to recognise cost of living increases.


PHF Chair, Jane Hamlyn explained, “Artists and composers are incredibly resourceful individuals – and they have to be. It’s not easy making ends meet whilst finding time to reflect and experiment. The Paul Hamlyn Foundation awards gives ten exceptional individuals the time and space they need.”


The awards provide visual artists and composers with significant support with no strings attached at a timely moment in their careers. As the largest awards made to individual visual artists and composers in the UK, they are designed to give recipients the time and freedom to develop their creative ideas.


In his personal and witty keynote speech, musician and writer Jarvis Cocker reflected on Paul Hamlyn’s work to bring high quality books, music and art into people’s homes. He told a story of how this resonated with his view of the importance of creativity in people’s lives, and how poverty cannot be reduced to economics alone. To thrive, inspiration and imagination are key.


The Foundation would like to take this opportunity to congratulate all the recipients and to thank everyone who made the awards possible, including the judges and nominators. We would also like to extend our thanks to Jarvis Cocker for his warmly received contribution.


Full biographies and examples of each artist’s work can be found here.

4 Nov  

Czech-American composer Ladislav Kubík died on 27th October. He was 71.


Born in Prague, Czechoslovakia, Ladislav Kubík studied at the Prague Academy of Music. He established a significant career in Europe—with commissions from Radio France, the Salzburg Festival, Centro para la Difúsion de la Música Contemporánea and the Centre International de la Musique pour Voix d’Enfants as well as receiving the Guggenheim Fellowship and other prizes—before joining Floria State University to teach composition in 1991. He eventually became a US citizen.


His works were especially widely performed in his adopted country and his native Czech Republic (as it became in 1993), recent premieres including his Concerto No. 3 for Piano, Orchestra in Tallahassee, Florida (2010); his Sonata-Portrait for solo piano at Ceský Krumlov, Czech Republic (2009); and Sinfonietta No.3 Gong in Prague (2009). Subsequent prizes included 1st Prize in the International Franz Kafka Composition Competition for Der Weg (1993); 1st Prize in the U.S. NACWPI Composition Contest for Two Episodes for Bass Clarinet, Piano, and Percussion (1995) and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (2010). He is name is also attached to a composition prize awarded by Florida State University, The Ladislav Kubik International Prize in Composition.



Ladislav Kubík website

Obituary at Florida State University


Florida State University Symphony Orchestra - Kubik's Piano Concerto No. 3, first movement

2 Nov  

French composer and conductor Jean-Jacques Werner died on 22nd October aged 82.


A native of Strasbourg, in his youth he studied the harp, horn and conducting before completing his higher eduction at the Schola Cantorum de Paris.


He pursued his twin interests of composing and conducting throughout his life. In 1960 he was appointed to Radiodiffusion-télévision française, where he conducted several regional orchestras as well as l'Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and l’Orchestre National de France. He also founded or helped to found a number of groups and institutions including: in 1970 l’Ensemble Instrumental du Val de Marne, for which a number of eminent composers wrote works; in 1972 the Union Européenne des Écoles de Musique (l’EMU), later directing its first orchestra; in 1974 l’Orchestre de l’Union des Conservatoires du Val de Marne; and in 1981 l’Orchestre Jeune Philharmonie du Val de Marne. 


Also active as a composer, his most recent works include the opera Luther ou le mendiant de la grâce, commissioned to mark the 500th anniversary of the reformation and premiered just before the composer’s death; a trio for piano violin and cello, premiered by the trio Lersy in Paris in 2016; and the song cycle for mezzo soprano and piano L’obstacle et la clé, which was recorded on Forgotten Records in July 2016.


Werner was also active as a teacher, both at the Reims Consevatoire (where he taught conducting) and at the Paris Conservatoire as a guest professor. He was awarded several notable prizes, including Le Prix Jacques Durand by l’Académie des Beaux-Arts (1987), the Prix Musical Charles Oulmont by the Fondation de France (1993), the Prix Pierre et Germaine Labole: Prix de printemps de la SACEM (2008) and was made Officier des arts & lettres in 2009. 


For more information:


Jean-Jacques Werner website.

Wikipedia (French)


Madigan Square, composed by Jean-Jacques Werner

Interview with Jean-Jacques Werner, composer of the opera Luther ou le Mendiant de la Grâce (in French)

31 Oct  

I feel pretty neutral about Halloween, neither regarding it as a dangerous pagan festival or a splendid excuse for dressing-up. I can certainly appreciate, however, this spooky rendition of Night on a Bald Mountain from the Melodica Men. Happy Halloween!

26 Oct  

The British Academy of Songwriter, Composers and Authors (BASCA) has announced its nominees for its 2017 composer awards, which will be presented in London on 6th December.


2017 British Composer Awards Nominations:


Amateur or Young Performers

The Feast That Went Off With A Bang by Ed Hughes

The Hogboon by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

Who We Are by Kerry Andrew


Chamber Ensemble

Khadambi’s House by Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian

Skin by Rebecca Saunders

The wreck of former boundaries by Aaron Cassidy



Affix Stamp Here by Leo Chadburn

Proclamation of the Republic by Andrew Hamilton

The Temptations of Christ by Barnaby Martin


Community or Educational Project

Anything but Bland by Brian Irvine

BIRDS and other Stories by Emily Peasgood

Crossing Over by Emily Peasgood


Contemporary Jazz Composition

Loop Concerto for jazz trio & large ensemble by Benjamin Oliver

Muted Lines by Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian

You Are My World by Robert Mitchell



Forest by Tansy Davies

Torus (Concerto for Orchestra) by Emily Howard

Two Eardley Pictures by Helen Grime


Small Chamber

In Feyre Foreste by Robin Haigh

Omloop Het Ives by Laurence Crane

Tuvan Songbook by Christian Mason


Solo or Duo

Inside Colour by Deborah Pritchard

Merula Perpetua by Sally Beamish

Piano Sonata No. 2 by Stuart MacRae


Sonic Art

cloud-cuckoo-island by Hanna Tuulikki

Luminous Birds by Kathy Hinde

Untitled Valley of Fear by Sam Salem


Stage Works

4.48 Psychosis by Philip Venables

Empty Hand, Peaceful Mind by Ben Gaunt

The Tempest by Sally Beamish


Wind Band or Brass Band

Anemoi by Joseph Davies

Four Études by Edward Gregson

In Ictu Oculi by Kenneth Hesketh


More details available at the BASCA website.

19 Oct  

Hyperion have just released a recording of James McCarthy’s cantata Codebreaker, which tell the story of Alan Turing’s life through three key moments: when he fell in love as a boy, during the war and in his final hours. It’s apparently optimistic opening quickly gives way to a work of great emotional depth, a fitting exploration of a man both lauded and unfairly persecuted. It is paired with Will Todd’s visionary Choral Symphony No. 4 Ode to a Nightingale.


If you like your symphonies sans chœur take a look at Philips Sawyers’ magnificent Symphony No. 3, just released on Nimbus with the English Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kenneth Woods. The work forms part of the ESO’s 21st-century symphonies programme, as described by the composer in an interview here on C:T back in February. Tradition seeps through it in the best possible way, not just in term of structure but in the intensity of the argument. Album extras are Sawyers’ Songs of Loss and Regret and his wistfully exuberant Fanfare. 


Brice Pauset’s Canons (WERGO), a collection of 24 short movements for piano that took him two decades to finish, are works of cerebral, crystalline beauty. Listening to them put me in mind of a fabulous afternoon I once had listening to Morton Feldman’s For Bunita Marcus in an improvised concert hall in the middle of Basel. Which is not to say that the works are at all similar, but rather that both require a kind of altered state of listening; in the case of the Feldman to absorb the cosmic length, with the Pauset to comprehend the extreme compression. The performances by Nicolas Hodges are a tour de force.


NMC continues to release works in their New Music Biennial shorts project, with the issuing of Mark Simpson’s After Avedon, a chamber music reaction to four photographs by American photographer Richard Avedon; 13 Vices, a collaboration between composers Brian Irvine and Jennifer Walshe; vocal work Pieces of Art by Laurence Crane; and Errollyn Wallen’s Mighty River, which explores themes of slavery and freedom. There are also two disks of music by John McCabe to look forward to: Silver Nocturnes, includes this title work for baritone and string quartet with the piano quintet The Woman by the Sea and his horn quintet; Desert III, the only work on the second disk, is a piano trio inspired by the Australian desert. Both are released in November. 


Apart from the Philip Sawyers, two other albums on Nimbus worth seeking out are a collection of choral works by Peter Leech, Jonathan Lee, Lawrence Whitehead, David Hugill and Robert Hugill performed by Harmonia Sacra; and the first four symphonies of Peter Racine Fricker, a lesser-known British composer who died in 1990. Naxos also completes a major recording milestone with the addition of Havergal Brian’s Symphonies 8, 21 and 26 to their catalogue—they have now recorded all 32. Two disks on Divine Art Recordings, finally: Twists and Turns is a collection of music by Rob Keeley, including Four Anacronistic Dances, Three Inventions, Some Reeds in the Wind and Seven Studies for Wind Quartet; and Transitional Metal by Fumiko Miyachi is the first portrait album of her music and includes works for piano, piano duo, chamber ensemble and brass band.

14 Oct  

The fortieth Huddersfield Contemporary Music festival (17th November—26th), features 31 world premieres and 103 UK premieres across 33 events.


One of the first works featured will be rock guitarist Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music, a work that, once regarded as a joke, has now been hailed as a ‘visionary classic.’ It is the starting point for a a guitar thread that runs throughout the festival, including debuts from Belgian group Zwerm, guitarist Clara de Asis and in a new work by James Dillon that prominently features the instrument. 


Other highlights include UK premieres of works by Brian Ferneyhough and a world premiere from Rolf Hind as well as new works from British composers Laura Bowler, Laura Cannell, Kit Downes, Lauren Sarah Hayes and Laurence Osborn. There will also be a concentration on two American figures, Pauline Oliveros and Linda Catlin Smith.


Mentioned in my last round-up, but worth reiterating since the bulk of the events take place in November is Wien Modern (30th October—1st December). It comprises some 48 productions, 90 events and over 50 premieres.


Also beginning in October with performances at Glyndebourne is a new run of Brett Dean’s well-received (back in June, see here) Hamlet (21st–27th Oct). November, however, sees the opera touring, with performances at Canterbury (3rd Nov), Norwich (17th) and Milton Keynes (24th) and one final date in December (1st) in Plymouth. 


ENO perform Marnie, a major new commission by Nico Muhly (see video, below) and the second by the American composer following Two Boys back in 2011. The libretto, by Nicholas Wright, is based upon the novel by Winston Graham. The synopsis is as follows (from the ENO website): ‘Marnie is a compelling psychological thriller set in England during the late 1950s. A young woman makes her way through life by embezzling from her employers, before she moves on and changes her identity. When her current boss Mark Rutland catches her red-handed, he blackmails her into a loveless marriage. Marnie is left with no choice but to confront the hidden trauma from her past.’ Performances run from 18th November to 3rd December.


Other premieres worth seeking out include a new work by Ben Smith at the opening of Series 3 of Borough New Music on 7th in St. George the Martyr, central London; John Croft’s Lost Work, performed by BBC SSO in Symphony Hall, Birmingham on 17th; new works from Nik Bärtsch and the OPUS 2017 competition winner (as yet unannounced) played by the Britten Sinfonia at Wigmore Hall also on 17th; and Arlene Sierra’s Nature Symphony, with the BBC Philharmonic at Bridgewater Hall on 25th. 


Don’t hang around, finally, if you are interested in booking tickets for performances of Stockhausen’s Stimmung and Cosmic Pulses at the Barbican on 20th November. The concert marks 10 years since the composer’s death and is likely to sell out quickly.

11 Oct  


Sound and Music has announced its 2017/18 ‘Adopt a Composer’ pairings. These are:


Anna Appleby with Merchant Sinfonia


Max Charles Davies with Côr Crymych a'r Cylch


Esmeralda Conde Ruiz with The Fretful Federation Mandolin Orchestra


Edmund Hunt with The Singers


Ben See with Stoneleigh Youth Orchestra 


Peter Yarde Martin with Bellfolk Handbell Ringers


Gaynor Barradell with Edinburgh Concert Band


Congratulations to all the composers selected. We look forward to the fruits of these partnerships!


More information at the Sound and Music website.

11 Oct  

The European Youth Orchestra has been driven from London as a result of the UK's decision to leave the EU. It will now be based in Rome and in the northern Italian city of Ferrara. Most sadly the future of British musicians in the orchestra are also in doubt, the orchestra website saying that 'British musicians are still eligible to apply this autumn to join the orchestra in 2018, when Britain will still be a member' and that 'The arrangement for future years will depend on the details of the agreement negotiated between the EU and the UK.'

More information available here.

5 Oct  

Swiss composer Klaus Huber died in Perugia, Italy on October 2nd. He was 92.


Born in 1924, Huber attended the Zürich Conservatory, studying the violin with Stefi Geyer and composition with Willy Burkhard. He worked as a teacher, including at the Basel Music Academy (1964–73) and the Freiburg Musikhochschule (1973–90). Many of his students—including Toshio Hosokawa, Brian Ferneyhough, Kaija Saariaho and Wolfgang Rihm—have become significant figures in their own right.


Huber was of the same generation as Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen, with whom he was often compared. Whilst he closely followed the developments of the Darmstadt school, his adoption of serialism was, however, less dogmatic—his breakthrough work, chamber cantata Des Engels Anredung an die Seele (1957, performed 1959), for example, adopts a rigorous form of serial structuring that nevertheless permits the emphasising of consonant intervals. 


Hubert’s other influences have included medieval and renaissance music (Cantiones de Circulo Gyrante, Agnus Dei cum recordatione); the system of modes of Arabic music  (Die Erde bewegt sich auf den Hörnern eines Ochsen, Lamentationes de fine vicesimi saeculi); and Latin American liberation theology (Senfkorn, 1975). Other than serialism, specific technical preoccupations include the use of spatial acoustics (Die umgepflügte Zeit and Spes contra spem) and the creation of a new system of tonality based on third tones (first appearing in works at the end of the 80s, discussed further in video, below). 


These diverse influences led Brian Ferneyhough to describe Hubert as a a composer that ‘avoided being pinned down to a marketable set of stylistic fingerprints, each work being both a highly individual response to a clearly focused and technically well-honed set of issues and precise reconsideration of the relationship of contemporary music languages to the real imperfect world in which they are embedded.’


Huber was awarded many prizes during his lifetime, including the Beethovenpreis of the city of Bonn (for Tenebrae) in 1970, the Art Prize of the city of Basel in 1978, the European Church Music Prize by the city of Schwäbisch Gmünd in 2007, the Music Prize Salzburg in 2009 and the Ernst von Siemens-Musikpreis in 2009.


The manuscripts of his works are held at the Paul Sacher Stiftung, Basel.



Grove Music Online 

Wikipedia Entry on Klaus Huber


Klaus Huber at Work (also discussing the use of third tones)

Klaus Huber: Tenebrae for large orchestra (1966/67)


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