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Holloway at 60: in London, Manchester & Cambridge

Over 20 works by Robin Holloway are performed this autumn in major celebrations for his 60th birthday, including premieres by the Nash Ensemble and Endellion String Quartet, and an all-Holloway orchestral concert by the BBC Philharmonic. In addition to concerts in London, the Royal Northern College of Music presents a Holloway Resonances weekend and the composer is featured at the Cambridge Music Festival.

The Nash Ensemble gives the world premiere of Holloway’s Spring Music for flute, harp and string quartet on 4 October at the Wigmore Hall in London. The new work is the third in a series of four chamber works, each for a different selection of six instruments, that evoke the seasons and the character of four of Holloway’s composer friends - the new work being dedicated to Howard Skempton. The 60th birthday concert also features Holloway’s Fantasy-Pieces on Schumann’s Liederkreis conducted by Lionel Friend. The work has been recorded by the Nash Ensemble on Hyperion (CDA 67036) and, as on disc, the Wigmore Hall performance of Fantasy-Pieces will incorporate Schumann’s song-cycle, here sung by tenor John Mark Ainsley with pianist Ian Brown.

The Endellion String Quartet gives the world premiere of Holloway’s new String Quartet in Manchester on 13 October, as an upbeat to the Holloway Resonances weekend at the RNCM. A further performance takes place on 18 November within the Cambridge Music Festival’s feature entitled Robin Holloway and the Romantics. The fruits of a long flirtation with this most challenging of mediums, the new String Quartet falls into three movements: the opening allegro is a forward-moving succession of contrasted material; the slow movement consists of a march rising through the range of the instruments, surrounding a muted trio; the finale is a compressed recap of the opening movement’s material, ending in a whirlwind prestissimo.

Manchester plays host to a three-day celebration of Holloway’s music on 16-18 October (full schedule overleaf) directed by Clark Rundell, combining the forces of the BBC Philharmonic and students from the Royal Northern College of Music. A highlight promises to be the all-Holloway concert by the BBC Philharmonic at the RNCM on 17 October, with Martyn Brabbins conducting three of the composer’s most admired works. Scenes from Schumann (1970) was a breakthrough work for Holloway in which he reclaimed "all that was forbidden by the Zeitgeist", embracing German Romanticism and recasting it in his own language. The Second Concerto for Orchestra (1979) was hailed as "one of the most important achievements of its time" (The Times) and "a simply astonishing piece of sustained compositional virtuosity" (Financial Times). The Violin Concerto (1990) demonstrates Holloway’s lyrical skills to the full, and the performance by Ernst Kovacic in Manchester is tied in with the NMC reissue of his recording (DO97).


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