Site Search


Other Resources
News Archive






7 Dec  

I was lucky enough to attend the British Composer Awards last night, held at the British Museum, London.

 

The ceremony was presented by Andrew McGregor and Sara Mohr-Pietsch of Radio Three and there were performances of selected pieces from Jeremy Dale Roberts’ Croquis by members of the Kreutzer Quartet. You can see the complete list of nominees in a previous post, here.

 

The winners were as follows:

 

Amateur or Young Performers

Who We Are by Kerry Andrew

 

Chamber Ensemble

Skin by Rebecca Saunders

 

Choral

Proclamation of the Republic by Andrew Hamilton

 

Community or Educational Project

Anything but Bland by Brian Irvine

 

Contemporary Jazz Composition

Muted Lines by Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian

 

Orchestral

Torus (Concerto for Orchestra) by Emily Howard

 

Small Chamber 

In Feyre Foreste by Robin Haigh

 

Solo or Duo

Inside Colour by Deborah Pritchard

 

Sonic Art

Luminous Birds by Kathy Hinde

 

Stage Works

4.48 Psychosis by Philip Venables

 

Wind Band or Brass Band

In Ictu Oculi by Kenneth Hesketh

 

There were also two special awards (without shortlists):

 

British Composer Award for Innovation

Shiva Feshareki

 

British Composer Award for Inspiration

Nigel Osborne

 

The ceremony was followed by some rather tasty bowl food, copious amounts of wine and very entertaining chatter from a room that was stuffed full of the UK’s finest composing talent. Here are a few pictures from the evening.

 

The composers gather:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew McGregor and Sara Mohr-Pietsch begin the presentations:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kerry Andrew (left), winner of the children’s choir category:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shiva Feshareki (centre), British Composer Award for Innovation:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




3 Dec  

A few thoughts from the first night of a Stockhausen weekend held at De Bijloke in Ghent, which I had the pleasure of attending on Friday.

 

We were presented with one of Stockhausen’s most celebrated early electronic works, Kontakte (1958–60), in the version that includes piano and percussion and his last electronic work, Cosmic Pulses (2006–7). In between the Ictus Ensemble performed an improvisatory electronic work, Electronic Concert Piece, which drew heavily on Stockhausen as a source of inspiration. 

 

I sat near the centrally placed mixing desk in both Stockhausen works, feeling that that would probably yield the best balanced sound. It was mostly a good decision, even if the full quadraphonic effect—there were speakers behind us— seemed only to make itself felt well into the first piece, Kontakte. Once it did, it was spellbinding. Pianist Jean-Luc Plouvier and percussionist Miguel Bernat were both superb, playing with a super-abundance of energy and, as far as one could tell in such a layered and complex work, precision. 

 

Electronic Concert Piece, which used scraps of material from both Kontakte and Microphonie I as well as a selection of electronic equipment with which Stockhausen would have been familiar, was a rather playful homage that seemed to pose more questions than it answered. One was never quite sure what was prepared and what was improvised and at times I wasn’t even sure whether I was hearing live electronic manipulation or prerecorded samples, a fact that was made concrete when the players stopped and let Stockhausen have the last word in a recorded extract from Kontakte.

 

The final work, Cosmic Pulses, is an 8 speaker electronic work. It was played in complete darkness, apart from the eerie glow of the mixing desk. I was completely unprepared for its arresting cauldron of counterpoint, which over its half-hour stretch barely lets up. Whilst the barrage of sound became, perhaps, a little exhausting, the texture was so bristling with life and subtle change that I was easily held spellbound. To me it also spoke of the sheer compositional energy of Stockahusen—although written in his late 70s it bristles with youthful exuberance.

 

The mixing desk for Cosmic Pulses, before the lights went out:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The two-day homage to the Stockhausen also had an exhibition of the types equipment used by the composer. Here are a few pics: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




26 Nov  

On Nimbus Kol Nidrei: Elegy for Pamela contains string quartets commissioned to celebrate the life of chamber music educator Pamela Majaro. It opens with the Cavatina from Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 13 and is followed by works from Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Mika Haasler, Cecilia McDowall, Roxanna Panufnik, Freya Waley-Cohen, David Knotts and William Zinn. The composers were chosen by the Majaro’s husband, a fact one can sense from the similarity of musical language within the commissioned pieces. This is not at all to criticise; the works are exquisitely well made, their tonal language entirely appropriate for the elegiac nature of the brief. 

 

Also on Nimbus, pianist Andrew Matthews-Owen releases Halo, his first disk of contemporary music written for his instrument. Three composers are represented: Joseph Phibbs, Dobrinka Tabakova and Hannah Kendall.  There is a bit more range of style on offer here, from the nocturnally muscular writing in Kendall’s On the Chequer’d Field Array to Dobrika Tabakova’s colourful  Modétudes, which effectively explore the harmonic/melodic possibilities of the old church modes.

 

Wergo seems to have had an unusually fruitful month of releases, with 7 new albums on offer. These are Mimetics, a collection of piano works by Mauricio Kagel; organ music by Toshio Hosokawa and John Cage; a collection of songs by Wilhelm Killmayer; three works for various large instrumental/vocal groups by Hans Zender; another album including music by Cage, this time his Chess Pieces and Four Dances paired with Tom Johnson’s Rational Melodies; a collection of works by Georg Friedrich Haas, Evan Johnson and Jani Christou that ‘deal with emotional or audible silence’; and a new portrait CD of American-Norwegian composer Evan Gardner.

 

Naxos have released recordings of Terry Riley’s The Palmian Chord Ryddle for electric violin and orchestra and At the Royal Majestic for organ and orchestra; songs by Daron Hagen; and Timothy Hamilton’s Requiem, which was commissioned in 2012 to mark the centenary of the First World War. Not contemporary, but also worth checking out is their world premiere recording of Shostakovich’s original score from the 1955 film The Gadfly, as reconstructed by conductor Mark Fitz-Gerald. 

 

A few other random choices that might interest: back on Nimbus is a generous programme of eight works by Augusta Read Thomas, ranging from small scale chamber music to Ritual Incantations, a work for cello and orchestra; NMC have released a collection works by three young composers—Lisa Illean, Gareth Moorcraft and Donghoon Shin—that participated in the Philharmonia Composers' Academy (see video below); and, perhaps most sonorously, is Divine Art Records’ new recording of Andreas Willscher’s Organ Symphonies 19 & 20

 




23 Nov  

 

   Photo: Pavel Antonov

Sad news, with the death yesterday of the great Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. 

 

Whilst not a great exponent of contemporary music, he was known for his collaboration with Russian composer Georgy Sviridov (1916—1998). Sviridov was very much a composer of the Soviet era, a student of Shostakovich and well used to writing music that fulfilled the requirements of Socialist Realism. He wrote two song-cycles for the Hvorostovsky, St. Petersburg and Russia Cast Adrift, both recorded (follow the links). Hvorostovsky himself described the music as ‘quite simple and, unlike most contemporary vocal music, it has beautiful melodies, written to the most wonderful poetry.’ 

 

In another interview the singer described performing a great deal of contemporary music when a member of the Krasnoyarsk Theatre as a very young man: ‘I wouldn’t give you examples, but I do love contemporary music.  When I was much younger, I used to do it a lot when I was a member of Krasnoyarsk Theater, when I lived in Krasnoyarsk, my home town.  I was doing a lot of contemporary music written by our young composers.  It was almost all twelve-tone music, which was very difficult.’ It would be good to know more about this part of his career. He also said in the interview that he would consider returning to contemporary repertoire. Who knows what we might have had had he been granted a little longer.




20 Nov  

A selection of reviews from the opening of Nico Muhly’s Marnie, premiered at ENO last Saturday. Muhly’s second opera for the company, it is based upon either or both the 1964 Alfred Hitchcock film and/or the 1961 Winston Graham novel on which the film is based.

 

The Stage calls it ‘an outstanding achievement’:

 

Much of this is down to a score that shows a significant development in Muhly’s art, both in terms of technical skill and expressive power; he handles his forces with increased command as well as discretion, revealing the interiors of his complex characters. The result is an outstanding achievement.

 

The Guardian says ‘The central relationship is compelling and there is some tremendous writing for the ENO chorus, but Muhly’s stylised opera lacks Hitchcockian suspense’: 

 

A lyrical warmth characterises Muhly’s vocal lines, and the choral writing, geared to the ENO chorus for whom Muhly has expressed great admiration, is tremendous, arguably constituting the finest music in the entire work. Yet there is a major flaw, which is primarily one of tone. Muhly’s approach is essentially reflective and there’s too little menace and tension throughout.

 

The New York Times leads with ‘Nico Muhly’s ‘Marnie’ Brings Hitchcock Into the 21st Century’, though the review itself is less positive: 

 

But the fundamental problem of “Two Boys” is that of “Marnie,” too: a sense that atmosphere reigns over drama. Mr. Muhly’s style is inherently restive — it’s all unsettled motion, shot through with tender exhalations — but the sound world is so hyper-polished and unvarying that the restlessness feels paradoxically static.

 

The Arts Desk says that ‘Nico Muhly’s world premiere offered musical pleasures but too many flaws to be great’:

 

In style the music is closest to John Adams, with post-minimalist pulsing textures and a largely diatonic, if not tonal, harmonic vocabulary. But there weren’t the moments either of orchestral or melodic magic that light up, for example, Nixon in China, and that remain in mind after the show has ended.

 

Bachtrack was perhaps the least positive: 

 

…the piece is let down by fundamentally vapid orchestral writing and a near total lack of dramatic tension, making some scenes, particularly the last, almost interminably dull. Where one longs for dynamism and orchestral flair, one finds only insipidity; Muhly’s Glass-inspired writing, beautiful in the right setting, is not at ease with his subject.





16 Nov  

The Spitalfields Winter Festival runs from 2nd to 9th December. Artistic Curator André de Ridder explains that this year the focus is on ‘making each event, each evening a festival in its own right. No programme will be presented by just one ensemble or soloist, but by a gathering of different artists and line-ups, exploring musical worlds and ideas in a myriad of ways.’ Highlights include Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons on 4th; various takes on counterpoint, from Bach’s Art of Fugue to Veli Kujala’s Hyperchromatic Counterpoint on 5th; a concert that mixes classical, techno, experimental and electroacoustic music and culminates in a new work by Qasim Naqvi on 6th; and text scores by Pauline Oliveros’ followed by the UK premiere of Anna Thorvaldsottir’s In The Light Of Air on 8th.

 

The BBC in collaboration with the Barbican and Guildhall School of Music will host another Total Immersion Day on 10th December, this time examining the music of Esa-Pekka Salonen. The first concert at 1pm focuses on his chamber music, including Dichotomie for solo piano. At 5pm the BBC Singers perform three choral works, alongside pieces by his teacher Einojuhani Rautavaara. In the evening the BBC Symphony Orchestra play Gambit, Wing on Wing, Timo II and Karawane (UK premiere), with Salonen himself introducing each work from the stage. 

 

As December progresses things get lighter and more Christmassy. Alongside the many Messiahs and Christmas Oratorios, however, music by living composers is still front and centre. On 15th December at Temple Church, London the BBC Singers perform contemporary music for the Christmas period, including the world premiere of Evergreen by Joanna Marsh. The BBC Symphony Chorus’s programme at Maida Vale Studios on 17th is a bit more wide ranging, but also includes contemporary works from the likes of Howard Skempton, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Malcom Archer and Will Todd. The very newest Christmas music will be on offer on 18th, with the final of the BBC Singers Carol Competition, which this year challenged composers to set the 15th-century text Sir Christemas. Don’t forget, finally, that the Christmas Eve service from King’s College Cambridge this year features a new work by Huw Watkins

 

Christmas is also a popular time for film music concerts. In Paris on 10th there is a Homage to Steven Spielberg, including music by John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Thomas Newman, Alan Silvestri, Michael Giacchino and Don Davis. John Williams’ also features in two concerts at the end of the month, one dedicated entirely to his works on 27th, the second, on 30th, sharing the stage with music by Hans Zimmer. Also worth checking out is the BBC Concert Orchestra’s exploration of music from the film noir greats on 8th December at the Royal Festival Hall. It will be hosted by film critic Mark Kermode. Hello to Jason Isaacs.




12 Nov  

This was posted a few days ago by Norman Lebrecht at Slipped Disc, but bears repeating, since it is such a dreadful thing to have happened. One can only hope that the work is found:

The French composer Philippe Manoury had his suitcase was stolen on November 6 on a train between Strasbourg and Mannheim. Inside were 40 pages of drafts for a new work for string quartet as well as copies of the fourth movement of Pierre Boulez’s String Quartet “Livre pour Quatuor”.

He’d like the thief to know that he can do what he likes with whatever else was in the suitcase, but the scores, which have no value to anyone else, are invaluable to the composer. The loss is a great blow for Manoury.

He appeals to the thief to leave the scores in a public place where they can be found.

If anyone sees or hears anything, please contact info@karstenwitt.com




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.

 

Sources: 

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)






Archive
 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  | ... |  45  |
CompositionToday offers a huge range resources exclusively for composers.

The benefits of Full Membership include:
  • our comprehensive jobs, competitions and opportunities service
  • Create your own showcase website, including MP3 samples of your work
  • In-depth interviews with leading figures from the world of new music
  • A unique soundbank resource, where you can listen to real instrument sounds organised by range and technique.

Concert Listings Today & Tomorrow: