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Fantasia on all the notes: celebrating Harrison Birtwistle

 10 May 2014 at 7.30pm 

Fantasia on all the notes: celebrating Harrison Birtwistle

CBSO Centre, Birmingham
Berkley Street, Birmingham
United Kingdom

BCMG, Oliver Knussen

Harrison Birtwistle is one of the major musical figures internationally and this concert sees BCMG and Oliver Knussen showcase works from across his career in his 80th birthday year.

An early breakthrough work, Tragoedia (1965) not only marked Birtwistle out as an independent voice but was also one of the first major scores to draw on what would prove to be a continuing interest in his music – Greek theatre, myth and ritual. Today Tragoedia is a classic of modern chamber repertoire, and like the most recent piece in the programme, Fantasia Upon All the Notes (2012), employs two groups of instruments, winds and strings, which are linked and fused by means of a third force, a harp.

All Birtwistle’s music is in essence a single melodic line that is filled out – a compositional trait that perhaps carried over from his early days as a clarinettist – and nowhere is this more evident than in the soaring lines he wrote in the opera Gawain, and in 4 Poems by Jaan Kaplinski (1991), written in its wake and here sung by rising young Belgian soprano Katrien Baerts.

Another of Birtwistle’s continuing fascinations, the medieval and the mythic, comes to the fore in earlier classic Silbury Air (1977, revised 2003), which takes its inspiration from the prehistoric mound of Silbury Hill in Wiltshire.

Birtwistle’s music has been an important influence for Tansy Davies. Premiered by these forces in May 2012, Davies’ funky, hyperactive and sumptuously scored piano concerto Nature has already enjoyed repeat performances by both BCMG and other ensembles.


Harrison Birtwistle : Tragoedia
Tansy Davies : Nature
Harrison Birtwistle : Cantata
Harrison Birtwistle : Fantasia on all the notes
Harrison Birtwistle : 4 Poems by Jaan Kaplinski
Harrison Birtwistle : Silbury Air
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Posted by Christian Morris


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