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13 Dec  

Another year of political turmoil, the deaths of André Previn and Michel Legrand, awards, premieres and festivals. Here’s C:T’s exclusive look back at another year in contemporary music….




C:T kicked off the New Year with an interview with composer Bushra El-Turk. Sad news followed with the death of composer John Joubert, who at 91 had at least lived long enough to hear the first performance of his opera Jane Eyre (1987–1997) in 2016. On 10th we were treated to alternative musician’s view of Brexit from contributor Andrew Glover. Meanwhile an argument was brewing over the EU’s proposed Article 13 legislation, which allowed copyright holders to assert their rights over streaming platforms such as YouTube. On 26th we lost French composer, pianist and singer Michel Legrand, best known for The Windmills of Your Mind.

  André Previn


16th February saw the death of Israeli composer Ami Maayani, who, like Iannis Xenakis, had a parallel career in architecture. A few days later we celebrated wins for composers Ludwig Goransson, who won an Oscar for his soundtrack to Black Panther and John Adams, who was awarded the 2019 Erasmus Prize. This month ended with the death of conductor, pianist and composer André Previn, a man of many parts who will nevertheless be best remembered for certain comedy show appearance.




March began with the launch of Scala Radio. A supposed competitor to Classic FM, one of C:T’s users, Rob Kennedy, commented ‘I listened to Scala for 20 minutes and that was all I could stand. It was full of ads, meaningless talk and only light classical music.’ 


On 21st we celebrated the approaching birthday of brilliant British contemporary music label NMC with an interview with it Executive Director, Anne Rushton. Meanwhile, the Article 13 controversy was continuing, with Boris Johnson’s arguments against it igniting a Twitter Storm.




On 9th April I tentatively reviewed NotePerformer 3, a new sound set for Sibelius. Having used it a bit longer I can now say that it was well-worth the purchase price.  The middle of the month saw ghastly images from Paris as Notre Dame caught fire. The musical world saw some relief when, a few days later, it was confirmed that the majestic Cavaille-Coll organ had survived.




The beginning of the month saw the announcement of The Ivors nominees (songwriting and screen composition) and a new report into the effects of Brexit on the music profession. We also marked the deaths of Belgian composer Dominique Lawalrée and British-Canadian Derek Holman.




In June C:T previewed the programmes for Tête à Tête, one of the UK’s best new music opera festivals, and the Cheltenham Festival and the BBC Proms, venerable older institutions that also do much to promote new music. We mourned the deaths of two composers on the same day, Dane Ib Nørholm and Swede Sven-David Sandström. Also sad to see was the closure of Borough New Music, which held its last concert on 25th.




At the beginning of the month we covered a second annual report from DONNE, Women in Music, which highlighted gender imbalances in composer concert programming—there was little progress year-on-year. On 4th the musical world erupted in indignation at an anonymous Guardian article that posed the question ‘What is classical music for?’ A few days later I posted a few of my own thoughts about it. On 21st Tom Could pointed out an unlikely link between Boris Johnson and Hans Werner Henze:

The month ended with the death of Australian composer Barrington Pheloung, best known as the composer of the Inspector Morse theme.




On 6th we marked the death of Belarusian composer and organist Anna Korotkina, who was known for her synthesis of the modern and the traditional, most notably through her study of ancient Belarusian Orthodox vocal manuscripts. As the UK political situation remained fraught, UK Music issued no deal Brexit guidance. There was bleak news on 17th, with a report highlighting a continued decline in the numbers of pupils studying music at A-level. Worse was to come, with the death of French composer Julien Gauthier who, horrifyingly, was killed by a bear on a field recording expedition in the remote Northwest Territories of Canada. He was just 44.




On 4th we looked forward to performances of new works by Richard James Harvey and Liz Lane at a special concert marking the 75th anniversary of St Albans Choral Society. There were congratulations on 11th, where we celebrated the announcement of new Sound and Music Adopt a Composer Pairings for 2019/20, and on 18th, when we covered the awarding of the Isang Yun International Composition Award to Heinz Hollinger and Kaija Saariaho. On 26th we marked the death of American composer Christopher Rouse, described by John Adams as ‘One of the few whose music will last.’




On 2nd I previewed a fabulous festival that takes place on my own doorstep, the Transit Festival, Leuven.  There were congratulations for composer Aya Yoshida on 6th, who had won the 2019 Zemlinsky Prize and for young composer Jack Pepper on 9th, who had been named as a Music for Youth Ambassador. Sound and Music released its Can Compose report, which aimed to reveal the barriers faced by young people looking to compose and create their own music. In it, 97% of educators agreed that there should be more opportunities for students to compose their own music. At the end of the month the Ivors Academy announced their shortlist for the 2019 Composer Awards, the Oscars of the British composing world.




As the UK election started to warm-up, on 7th UK Music called upon party leaders to back the industry ahead of the general election. There were two new reports, one from Sound and Music that revealed that their efforts to reflect ethnic diversity in their composition programmes were having mixed results, and another, UK Numbers, which revealed that music contributes £5.2 billion to the UK economy. On 20th we marked the death of US composer Nancy Bloomer Deussen, who was a noted advocate for accessibility in contemporary music. On 22nd we lost choral conductor Stephen Cleobury, known in the composition world for his commissioning of a new carol each Christmas at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings College, Cambridge.




December saw the awarding of the Ivor Novello Awards and congratulations from C:T to all the winners. 


This bring us to the momentous events of today. The victory of Boris Johnson in the UK election means the completion of Brexit. Many—though by no means all—musicians will feel disheartened by this news. As we look towards the new year, however, it is important to realise that there are still arguments for us to make. The next year will either see the shaping of the UK’s new relationship with the EU through the forging of a new trade deal or the collapse of negotiations and the renewed prospect of a no deal Brexit. The nature of the deal, or lack of it, will define how easy it will be for musicians to do business with our continental colleagues. So, as the future unfolds, whilst accepting the matter, we must continue to try to shape the manner. Perhaps this will even mark a return to politics as normal. Not before time.

10 Dec  

Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth received the Österreichischen Ehrenzeichen für Wissenschaft und Kunstthe (Austrian Decoration for Science and Art) yesterday. Part of the celebration consisted of a eulogy from Greek composer and conductor Konstantia Gourzi. The award came the day after the world premiere of Neuwirth’s new opera Orlando, based on Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando: A Biography.

Orlando rehearsal preview

5 Dec  

Yesterday evening the Ivors Academy announced the winners of the 2019 Ivors Composer Awards.


Ivor Novello Awards were presented across eleven nominated categories that included jazz composition, works for chamber ensemble and those written for Amateur or Young Performers. In addition, two composers were recognised for their wider contribution to music through the presentation of Ivor Novello Awards for Innovation and Lifetime Achievement. Of the thirteen composers awarded, all but one was honoured by The Ivors Academy for the very first time, with the majority presented to female composers.


Many congratulations to all of the winners, who were as follows:



The Salamander and The Moonraker by Edward Gregson



Flute Concerto by Dai Fujikura



Pocket Universe by Geoff Hannan



Convo by Charlotte Harding



Jumping In by Laura Jurd



There is a Crack in Everything by Alison Rayner



The Book of Miracles (Trombone Concerto) by Gavin Higgins



Leafleoht by James Weeks



Invisible Cities by Charlotte Bray



Aeons: A Sound Walk for Newcastle by Martin Green



Harriet (‘Scenes in the life of Harriet Tubman’) by Hilda Paredes



Anna Meredith MBE



Erika Fox



Ivors Academy Website.

4 Dec  

Industry body UK Music has called upon the British government to recognise the power of music to improve wellbeing and boost the development of young people


UK Music CEO Michael Dugher has called on politicians and policymakers to recognise the “transformative” impact that music can have on mental health and wellbeing.


In a speech on Monday December 2 at music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins’ Social Value of Music conference, UK Music CEO Michael Dugher outlined the crucial value of music to society and the economy.


Quoting the Music’s Music By Numbers report (see here) he revealed the UK music industry now contributed a record £5.2 billion a year to the economy. 


Dugher also highlighted findings from the Cultural Learning Alliance, which found that exposure to music enhanced cognitive abilities by 17 per cent.  He also pointed to a study in the American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine which revealed 96 per cent of patients had positive responses to music therapy.


Ahead of the looming General Election on December 12, Mr Dugher urged the next Government to set up an inter-departmental strategy on music and health to focus all the social benefits that music can bring.


He added: “This is a vitally important area and something that I and my colleagues at UK Music have already been talking to the Government about. It would be key in mapping out how we maximise the benefits of music for everyone.”


Mr Dugher said that “rhetoric needs to be matched by action...including on funding”.


In his speech, Mr Dugher referenced the impact of music on health and wellbeing by highlighting


-evidence from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing that music therapy reduces agitation and the need for medication in 67 per cent of people with dementia.

–Government estimates that arts participation rates in England result in NHS cost savings of £168.8 million due to reduced GP visits.


He said “We all know from personal experience how a particular piece of music can calm us, can lift our mood when we’re feeling down or depressed, can help us celebrate and feel good, can give us pause for reflection triggering memories and experiences that define our lives.”


Mr Dugher also referenced the impact of music on general educational development by citing a study of 


–147 children that found structured music lessons enhanced language-based reasoning, short-term memory and planning and led to improved academic performance.

–608 students that revealed those that played a musical instrument showed greater progress at school and better academic outcomes than those pupils who did not play music.


He said “All the evidence suggests that children who are engaged in their education through music, and similarly through other subjects like drama and sport, do better at core subjects like Maths and English.”


For more information: UK Music website.

27 Nov  

Harpist Yolanda Kondonassis has announced the release of her new book, The Composer’s Guide to Writing Well for the Modern Harp (Carl Fischer Music), a comprehensive guide and conversational text on composing idiomatically for the harp. The book features 22 detailed chapters on a full spectrum of topics, including technical logistics, chromaticism, notation, context, resonance management, special effects, and more.


Kondonassis, one of the world’s most renowned harp soloists, writes, “In many ways, this book has been writing itself in my head for at least two decades. My motivation to demystify the harp is strong; I would even go so far as to call it a mission, but my goal is not merely to provide a set of rules, lists, and practical suggestions. While I have made a concentrated effort to streamline information and highlight those areas that I consider to be the most valuable and important, this volume should not read like a textbook. It should feel more like a friendly, candid conversation with an experienced harpist who wants to make composing for the harp easier and more successful.” 


Topics covered in Kondonassis’ book include: 

  • Chromaticism and navigating the harp’s pedal system
  • Physics of writing idiomatic music
  • Practical guidance on register, volume, and resonance
  • Comprehensive index of traditional effects and notation
  • Over twenty pages of contemporary special effects with notation
  • Props, electro-acoustics, and media integration
  • Candid advice on writing for the harp in every context

The Composer’s Guide to Writing Well for the Modern Harp also features six original illustrations by cartoonist Jeffrey Curnow. Each cartoon was drawn especially for the book and imparts Curnow’s gift of musical humour.


As an author, composer, and arranger, Kondonassis has published three books to date: On Playing the Harp, The Yolanda Kondonassis Collection, and The Yolanda Kondonassis Christmas Collection, all published by Carl Fischer Music. She has also published a children’s book, Our House is Round: A Kid’s Book About Why Protecting Our Earth Matters.


The Composer’s Guide to Writing Well for the Modern Harp is available now from Carl Fisher Music

27 Nov  

The death of eminent choral conductor Stephen Cleobury last Friday, just a few month into his retirement, came as shocking news to those of us not in the cathedral music loop.  


Cleobury will chiefly be remembered as Director of Music at King’s College Cambridge, where he successfully maintained its world-class choral tradition for the better part of 40 years. Outside Cambridge he conducted the East Anglia Chamber Orchestra (for which he also served as honorary president) and was chief conductor of the BBC Singers from 1995 to 2007 before becoming their connector laureate. He was president of the Royal College of Organists from 1990 to 1992, continuing to give organ recitals throughout his career. Both as conductor and performer he leaves a substantial and highly-regarded discography.


He was a great supporter of contemporary music. At King’s he established the annual tradition of commissioning a composer to write a new carol for the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. They included such figures as Peter Maxwell Davies, Lennox Berkeley, Judith Weir, Arvo Pärt, Jonathan Harvey, Thea Musgrave and Tansy Davies. As Director of the Cambridge University Musical Society he also recorded Alexander’s Goehr’s The Death of Moses and gave the first performance of Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Sorecerer’s Mirror. 


Stephen Cleobury was appointed as CBE in 2009 and knighted this year for his services to choral music.


John Rutter: A Tribute to Sir Stephen Cleobury (including insights into the commissioning of the Festival of Nine Lessons Carol)

20 Nov  

Music by Numbers 2019 - industry contributes £5.2 billion to UK economy


Industry body UK Music today published its first study reveals the role music plays in the economy. The key findings include:


- The UK music industry contributed £5.2 billion to the UK economy in 2018.

- The Live Music sector made contribution of £1.1 billion in 2018 - up 10% from £991 million in 2017. 

- Employment in the industry hit an all-time high of 190,935 in 2018.

- The total export revenue of the music industry was £2.7 billion in 2018.

- Music tourism alone contributed £4.5 billion spend to the UK economy in 2018 - up 12% from £4 billion in 2017.


- Overseas visitors to UK shows and festivals surged by 10% from 810,000 in 2017 to 888,000 in 2018.


UK Music CEO Michael Dugher said:

Our report reveals firm evidence that the British music industry is in great shape and continuing to lead the world.

The figures are hugely encouraging and show that, as well as enriching the lives of millions of people, music makes an incredible contribution to the UK’s economy.


Full story, here.

20 Nov  

U.S. composer and performer Nancy Bloomer Deussen died on 16th November. She was 88.


Bloomer Deussen, a prominent Californian, was co-founder of the San Francisco Bay Area National Association of Composers, also serving on the national body for a number of years.


Deussen was educated at Juilliard School, The Manhattan School of Music, USC School of Music and San Jose State University, studying composition with Vittorio Giannini, Lukas Foss, Ingolf Dahl and Wilson Coker.


Bloomer Deussen was an advocate of accessible contemporary music, a fact reflected in her own style, which is melodic and tonal. She also was known for using the natural world as a source for inspiration, both more generally in works such as Cascades (piano), One of Nature's Majesties (clarinet, bassoon and piano) and Loveliest of Trees (soprano with piano), or in works with a specific sense of place, such as Afternoon in Asbury Park (trumpet and piano), Parisian Caper (alto sax, clarinet and piano) or Yellowstone Suite (soprano and alto recorders, harpsichord, viola da gamba).


A recipient of many grants, including The Peninsula Community, Silicon Valley Arts Council, The American Composer's Forum, The Contemporary Record Society and the Mu Phi Epsilon Memorial Foundation, she also won the Mu Phi Epsilon Original Composition Contest for her Woodwind Quartet (1987), The Bay Area Composer's Symposium Award for Reflections on the Hudson, for orchestra (1994), The Britten on-the-Bay Prize for Trio for Violin, Clarinet and Piano (1996) and the Mu Phi Epsilon Original Composition Contest for Concerto for Clarinet and Small Orchestra (1999).


Bloomer Deussen was also active as a pianist, both in performances of her own works and in shows by Gershwin, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Irving Berlin and others. She also worked privately as a teacher of composition.


Peninsula Suite (Nancy Bloomer Deussen) Mvmt. 1 - Morning Music

13 Nov  

George Benjamin will be the fourth British composer in a decade to be featured in the annual international Composer Festival. 


Three of the four concerts centre on his orchestral works, either alone or in combination with other instruments. On the 21st is the opportunity to hear his Duet for piano and orchestra; Dream of the Song for countertenor, female chorus and orchestra; Sometime Voices, for baritone solo, SATB chorus and orchestra; and Palimpsests. In case you can’t make it, this concert will be reported in its entirety on 23rd. The concert on 22nd begins with Sibelius’s Tapiola, providing a way into Benjamin’s A Mind of Winter, for soprano and orchestra, also an exploration of vast landscapes. This is followed Dance Figures and Ringed by the Flat Horizon.


The final concert on 24th features smaller works: Viola, viola for two violas; At First Light for chamber orchestra; and Into the Little Hill, a lyrical tale based on the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin for soprano, contralto and ensemble.


For more information and tickets: Konserthuset, Stockholm.

13 Nov  

A year Sound and Music published data into the ethnicity of those applying for their composition programmes. From these results they made changes to the application process of their Artist Development Programme, in the hope that it would lead to greater diversity in their applicants.


The results of this years’s survey suggest relatively little movement year on year (see inforgraphic, below).


SaM said: ‘If we are to make progress in making our opportunities more inclusive we need to think, and act, far more radically. Over the next few months we will be shaping a new strategy to address this need, in consultation with a broad range of external advisors.’


Full story, here.


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