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21 Aug  

The Manchester-based ensemble Psappha moves back to its home at Hallé St. Peter's, Ancoats in November after the venue’s much anticipated renovation.

 

Brand new music is at the heart of Psappha’s artistic offering, and this is reflected in the 2019-20 season. Over six concerts the ensemble will perform nine world premieres:

 

–Mark-Anthony Turnage Black Milk

–Nina Danon Mi Hijo, Mi Avuela 

–Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade Three études for piano and flower pots

–George Stevenson New work

–Alissa Firsova Songs of the World

–Nate Chivers New work 

–Athanasia Kontou New work 

–Zakiya Leeming New work 

–Tywi Roberts New work


Psappha’s concert programme and pre-concert events are designed to open up the experience of contemporary music to a wide audience.

 

The ensemble will work with Professor Douglas Jarman (author of 'The Music of Alban Berg') to create films which will be screened before each concert, revealing more of the context, relevance and history around the featured pieces. There will also be a chance to hear directly from many of the composers as they talk about the inspiration behind their work.

 

For the performance on 6 February 2020, Amaradaya (ordained member of the Triratna Buddhist Order) will lead a session of mindfulness meditation to set the tone ahead of Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s hypnotic 'In the Light of Air.'

 

Psappha is currently based at St Michael's, but will move back to Hallé St. Peter's on 28 November after its anticipated renovation. Both venues are in Ancoats, an inner-city area of Manchester that was once the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. Psappha shares the spaces with The Hallé

 

Continuing the Composing for... talent development programme for emerging composers, this year’s selected composers will write for: sitar with Jasdeep Singh Degun; accordion with Miloš Mihajlović; and for cello and piano with core Psappha ensemble members Jennifer Langridge and Benjamin Powell. They will be offered expert support and professional guidance over an extended period to create new works that will be filmed and considered for a future Psappha performance

 

Psappha has signed up to the PRS Foundation Keychange gender balance initiative, working towards 50:50 representation by 2022. 45% of the composers programmed in Psappha’s 2019-20 Manchester concert series are female.

 

For more information:

www.psappha.com

Béla Bartók (1881-1945) - Sonata for two pianos and percussion



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21 Aug  

Tragic news, with the death of French composer Julien Gauthier, who was attacked and killed by a bear whilst on a field recording expedition in the remote Northwest Territories of Canada. He was just 44.

 

Gauthier was a graduate of the Paris National Conservatory of Music and Dance. He was known for his interest in ambient recordings, often made in remote locations. In 2015, as his l’Atelier des Ailleurs artistic residency he spent five months in the Kerguelen Islands in the Antarctic (see video, below). This led the composition of his Symphonie australe for the Symphonic Orchestra of Bretagne and a sound diary Inaudita Symphonia  (more examples of his field recordings are available on his Soundcloud page). 

 

Interested in other musical cultures, Gauthier also worked with artists such as French-Syrian singer Climène Zarkan, jazz singer Roxane Roussel and Moroccan singer Oum. Gauthier had been composer in residence with the Orchestra of Bretagne since 2017 and had been preparing for a new symphonic project for the 2019–20 season.

 

 



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21 Aug  

   John Palmer

Centred on a fatal triangle of characters, John Palmer’s Opera Re di Donne (King of Women) will be premiered by the Teatro Lirico Sperimentale di Spoleto “A. Belli” at the Teatro Caio Melisso, Spoleto 6 – 8 September 2019.

 

Re di Donne is an opera in one act and five scenes for four singers with ensemble and electronics. The opera deals with the problem of femicide explored within a fatal triangle and in a set of daily situations that will gradually lead to the final tragedy of the story. The different psychological aspects of the four characters – Ivana, Martina, Frida and Rocco – are treated in a musical dialectic where the dialogues of the singers are mirrored by the instruments of the ensemble. The voices blend with the instruments in a mutual search for colours and articulations where word and sound reflect two aspects of the same human condition. Thus, Rocco’s alter-ego is the trombone, Ivana’s the flute, Martina’s the clarinet and Frida’s the cello.

 

The music of  Re di Donne is diversified by the erratic circumstances of the story, the contradictions and the dark sides of each character, especially in relation to their idea of love as a vehicle for selfish satisfaction. In this context, the disturbing relationship of man and woman, banal and superficial, but at the same time abusive and cruel, is amplified by even more dysfunctional behaviour taking place between woman and woman. 

 

But it is not only a tragic opera: the circumstances of four ordinary lives will reveal the relentless power of vanity, jealousy and moral superficiality, at times with comic traits and bordering the ridiculous.

 

Re di Donne has been commissioned by the Istituzione Teatro Lirico Sperimentale. It will be published by Composers Edition.

 

RE DI DONNE (World Premiere)
SPOLETO Teatro Caio Melisso
Friday 6 September 8.30pm, Saturday 7 September 8.30pm, Sunday 8 September 5pm.

 

Music: John Palmer
Libretto: Cristina Battocletti, John Palmer
Conductor: Vittorio Parisi
Director: Alessio Pizzech
Staging: Andrea Stanisci
Lighting: Eva Bruno
Costume: Clelia De Angelis
Solo singers and instrumentalists of Teatro Lirico Sperimentale di Spoleto “A. Belli”

 

For more information about John Palmer:



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17 Aug  

Bleak news on A-level results day (15th August), with information published by the Joint Council for Qualifications showing a continued decline in pupils studying the subject:

 

Since 2014 there has been a 30.2% decline in music entries at A-level.

 

Furthermore, a smaller percentage of students attained the top grades in music in 2019 compared to all A-level subjects. A total of 19.4% of pupils achieved A*-A grades in music compared to 25.5% for all subjects.

 

More information, here.



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17 Aug  

On Wednesday the Incorporated Society of Musicians called upon the government to cover any post-Brexit costs associated with travelling to the EU27/EEA if there is a no deal Brexit. They estimated that those who travel with an instruments will incur additional costs of up to £1000 per year. Other costs will include private medical insurance, musical instrument certificates, international driving permits and, potentially, visas. 

 

The following day UK Music issued guidance in the event of a no deal Brexit. This includes links to advice relating to freedom of movement, the common travel area, VAT, data protection, copyright, exhaustion of IP, social security and carnets. 

 

Much of this, I have to say, is couched in legalese and is difficult to understand (the VAT changes are bewildering, especially if your situation is very specific) or simply asks you to look elsewhere for answers (helpful phrases such as ‘contact the relevant EU social security institution to check if you need to start paying social security contributions in that country, as well as in the UK.’). 

 

Good luck everyone…



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15 Aug  

Ultima, Oslo’s festival of contemporary music take place in a number of the Norwegian capital’s performance spaces, including large auditoriums, churches, theatres and art galleries.

 

This year the theme is Traditions Under Pressure, reflecting ‘the role of modern music in constantly questioning and pushing at the limits of what is familiar to our ears.’ It leaves, no doubt intentionally, quite a bit of interpretive leeway, the result being that the programme is varied and hard to categorise. Not that that should discourage anyone from attending—there’s an awful lot to recommend amongst the 58 events. There are premieres aplenty, including Large Bird Mask, a major new commission from Rolf Wallin on 14th that promises to fill Oslo’s opera house ‘with a twilight chorus of contemporary chamber music inspired by birdsong.’ There is a new version of Lost Rooms, a documentary theatre performance by director Kjetil Skøien and composer Julian Skar. Originally exploring the plight of Balkan refugees, it has been updated to describe the experience of those displaced by the Syrian conflict. On 21st Øystein Wyller Odden’s Kraftbalanse, for piano, alternating current and orchestra is a musical representation of changes in the power grid. The work consists of a self-resonating grand piano that has been tuned to vibrate according to the frequencies emitted by AC current. There is also the opportunity to hear music from the next generation of composers on 19th, with a presentation of music from the European Ulysses platform for emerging young composers and performers and composers from the Norwegian Academy of Music.

 

Away from the premieres pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard will present Messiaen’s ornithological masterpiece Catalogue d’Oiseaux at three separate Oslo locations during the course of the day. There will be three opportunities to hear Echo Flux, a double-bill examining the relationship between dance and music, the two works on offer being Alban Richard & Sebastian Rivas’ the departed Heart and Ayelen Parolin & Ezra’s Primal. For the sixth year in a row, on 15th the festival will also run a day for children, offering the chance to roam the Sentralen venue playing instruments, watching films, reinterpreting the works of the main programme and much more.



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6 Aug  

Belarusian composer and organist Anna Korotkina has died. She was just 57.

 

Korotkina graduated from the Minsk Institute of Culture and the State Academy of Music. She was a member of the Belarusian Union of Composers and the Society of Contemporary Music and winner of a grant and prize of the Minsk City Executive Committee. She was also active as a teacher and took an academic interest in creativity in children, presenting masterclasses at international conferences.

 

Korotkina’s style synthesised the modern and the traditional, most notably through her study of ancient Belarusian Orthodox vocal manuscripts. The style of singing found in them was recreated in her choral, piano and organ works. It for the last of these, her organ music, that she is best known outside her native Belarus. 



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2 Aug  

Australian composer Barrington Pheloung died on 31st July. He was 65.

 

Pheloung was best known for his theme music for the detective series Inspector Morse. A lover of puzzles, in it he used Morse code to suggest the detective's name and even, within individual episodes, to signal the name of the killer. Pheloung also wrote music for the sequel to Morse, Lewis (2006–2015), and its prequel, Endeavor (from 2012).

 

Barrington was born in Manly, New South Wales. He learnt guitar from an early age, playing R&B in local bars before a burgeoning interest in classical music led him to London and the Royal College of Music. His first break was when he was commissioned to write a ballet score whilst still a student. 

 

His first job in television came in 1986, when he provided the score to the detective series, Boon. Morse followed in 1987, winning him acclaim and a Bafta Award nomination. Pheloung’s other credits include: Friendship’s Death (1985), Truly Madly Deeply (1991), The Legends of Treasure Island (1993), Hilary and Jackie (1998), Shopgirl (2005) and Red Riding (2009).

 

A much-loved figure in the music world, tributes on Twitter have been numerous. Composer Howard Goodall wrote: ‘So sad to hear of the death of brilliant & warm colleague, composer #BarringtonPheloung. His Morse themes have been an inspiration to all of us in the field. He was unfailingly generous, unfailingly professional & always put the music and his players first.’ Debbie Wiseman said ‘So very sad to hear of the passing of wonderfully talented, original and inventive composer #BarringtonPheloung - his music will live on in our memories, as will his warm and generous spirit. RIP’ Columnist and broadcaster Michael Coren wrote: ‘This is such a tragedy. #BarringtonPheloung was an enormously gifted composer, and what he wrote for the Morse series is extraordinary.’

 

Morse main theme



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24 Jul  

This year’s Presteigne Festival has an American flavour, with one of the two composers’-in-residence being composer/harpist Hannah Lash. She will be the subject of a portrait concert on 25th, which will include UK premieres of Folksongs and Stalk. Her new concerto for flute and string orchestra, Fault Lines will receive its world premiere on 27th. Continuing the American theme, Aaron Copland will be the subject of a musical discovery event hosted by broadcaster and writer Stephen Johnson on 27th with a number of his works, including Appalachian Spring and Clarinet Concerto, programmed throughout.

 

Lash’s fellow composer-in-residence is Cheryl Frances-Hoad. Her Tales of the Invisible - a quintet for clarinet and strings, will receive its world premiere on 24th. Other works by her will include The Ogre Lover (also on 24th), O come, let us sing unto the Lord (as part of the festival eucharist on 25th) and the substantial Katharsis for cello and chamber orchestra (25th). Frances-Hoad will also be in conversation with Lash on 26th, where they will discuss their lives and careers with Anglo-American music publisher Louisa Hungate. 

 

Other premieres to look forward to are James Francis Brown’s String Trio No. 2 on 24th; Harriet Grainger’s Missa Brevis on 25th; Freya Waley-Cohen’s Winterbourne for string quartet on 25th; and works by Gregory Rose, Liam Mattison and Mark David Boden on 26th. 

 

As well as the music, there is a collection of supporting events including Sarah Gabriel’s one-woman show, Dorothy Parker takes a Trip, together with exhibitions, a trio of American movies, talks from Stephen Johnson, Ian Marchant and Nick Murray, poetry with Fiona Sampson and Welsh art with Peter Lord.

 

Artists appearing include the Albion Quartet, pianists Tom Poster and Siwan Rhys, virtuoso flautist Katherine Bryan, French clarinettist Rozenn le Trionnaire, string players Mathilde Milwidsky (violin), Alice Neary (cello), Sarah-Jane Bradley (viola) and Hannah Lash (harp), soprano Elizabeth Cragg and exciting young percussionist George Barton. A specially-formed Presteigne Festival Chamber Choir will be directed by Philip Sunderland and the Festival Orchestra will appear three times under artistic director, George Vass.

 

The full programme is available on the festival website here.



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24 Jul  

The world’s largest arts festival, known especially for it popular comedy fringe, always runs a decent programme of contemporary classical music. Headlining this year’s events are tribute concerts to James Macmillan in this, his sixtieth birthday year (see video, below). These will include the chance to hear the Scottish Symphony Orchestra give the world premiere of his Symphony No. 5: Le grand Inconnu, performed alongside his Symphony No. 2 on 17th. There will also be performances of his organ concerto A Scotch Bestiary, his concerto for orchestra Woman of the Apocalypse, the First World War oratorio All the Halls and Vales Along, the cantata Quickening and the piano trio Fourteen Little Pieces. 

 

Away from the Macmillan festivities, there is the first European outing for John Adams’ piano concerto Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? on 4th and the UK Premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Glorious Percussion, played by brilliant Scottish percussionist Colin Currie, on 8th. Other featured composers during the festival include Kaija Saariaho, Ligeti, Lutosławski and 18-year-old American Tyson J. Davis, whose Delicate Tension will be performed by the National Youth Orchestra of the USA on 9th.



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21 Jul  

An unlikely link between Boris Johnson and Hans Werner Henze was pointed out on Twitter today: 

Sounds like a hoax? That's what I thought too, but you will find the piece listed in Henze's catalogue, here.

As one wag pointed out: 'Call me uncharitable, but I don't get a sense he put his heart and soul into this one...'



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17 Jul  

Former indie band member and Bury MP James Frith today led a debate on the crisis in English Music Education at Westminster Hall. The event was held with the support and collaboration of UK Music.

The debate was held to highlight the importance of music education in supporting an industry which contributes £4.5 billion to the British economy.

 

Evidence of the crisis includes:

  • 50% of children at independent schools receive sustained music tuition, but the figure is only 15% for state schools
  • 17% of music creators were educated at independent schools, compared to only 7% across the population as a whole
  • OFQUAL statistics on the number of entries between 2014 and 2019 show a decline of 30% in the number of pupils taking A-Level Music.

UK Music is urging the Government to support its plan to combat the crisis facing music in education. 

 

The eight points in its blueprint to halt the decline are: 

  • securing universal access to music within state education;
  • achieving a broad-based music education within curriculum learning;
  • sustained funding;
  • empowering local solutions;
  • improved teacher training and support;
  • incentivising music education in schools through inspections;
  • increasing music facilities for young people outside school hours;
  • and conducting an analysis of music education delivery.

UK Music CEO Michael Dugher said:

“Music in state education is facing an undeniable crisis. All children from every background should have access to music in education - not just those who can access the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ to pay for instruments and tuition or send them to private schools.”

 

According to a survey of teachers conducted by the BPI in March 2019: 

  • State schools have seen a 21% decrease in music provision over the past 5 years, compared to a net increase of 7% in music provision in independent schools over the same period. Around 30% of state schools have seen a decrease in curriculum time for music, or a reduction in the number of qualified music teachers.
  • Only 12% of the most deprived schools have an orchestra, compared to 85% of independent schools.
  • 1 in 4 schools serving disadvantaged communities offer no music instrument lessons to students that want them.  Almost all independent schools and those serving affluent communities do.
  • Only 64% of schools serving disadvantaged communities give students a chance to take part in a school musical or musical play, compared with 91% of the most affluent state schools and 96% of independent schools.
  • 89% of independent schools run a choir in lunchtime or after-school compared to only 60% of the most disadvantaged state schools.
  • Almost 40% of state-funded secondary schools now have no compulsory music lessons in year 9. Students from disadvantaged communities are least likely to have regular music lessons by age 13/14.
  • Only 44% of music lessons in a primary school are delivered by a music specialist.
  • 1 in 5 primary school teachers report there is no regular music lesson for their class.

Here’s today’s debate in full:



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10 Jul  

The arguments and rebuttals following the Guardian’s posing of the question ‘What is classical music for?’ (4th July) have continued to roll in. Best of the bunch has been Richard Morrison’s witty riposte in The Times

 

That the Guardian editorial was published anonymously suggests that the newspaper was aware that the argument it presents is not well thought through. Would anyone want to sign their name next to it? 

 

The piece argues that classical music has become commodified in two ways, on the one hand as a kind of deterrent or pacifier for delinquents (through piped music in public spaces), an observation it can’t resist making without taking swipe at Cage and Stockhausen, and on the other as a status symbol for the rich, some of whom are apparently prepared to pay touts up to £2,500 for Last Night of the Proms tickets. It concludes by worrying that classical audiences are much less adventurous than, say, those who appreciate contemporary visual arts or literature.

 

There are elements of truth, of course, in this analysis. Classical music (including contemporary classical) has long been used and abused, especially in television, cinema and advertising (the last of these has also been the lot of contemporary art). Rather than being a reason to question its purpose, however, this is, rather, suggestive of its allure—its power to move emotions and sell products. So while we may opine the fact that the dopamine-releasing properties of classical music are used, in the words of the article, to calm ‘customers who might otherwise become restive if they queue too long for fries,’ this is hardly a cause for panic.

 

That people are willing to pay exorbitant prices for the chance to attend a concert of classical music might similarly be seen as a sign of its success. I personally doubt that these concert-goers are imposters, merely there to be seen, as might be the case at other social gatherings such as Ascot (cited in the article). There’s not a lot of pleasure to be found in sitting still for two hours listening to music you don’t like. Even if it were the case, I find myself entirely indifferent—these people are subsidising the cheaper seats that keep classical music accessible for all.

 

And in that respect classical music doesn’t seem to be in bad shape. As Richard Morrison writes, ’You can get a standing ticket for any of this year’s 75 Proms for £6, and 70,000 punters will do so. Another 100,000 will buy seats costing £15 or less.’ Many of these punters will, no doubt, be there for the Brahms, Beethoven or Bach. Many, however, will be there for the contemporary music—Stockhausen concerts, the composer that the article maligns, regularly sell out (see here, here or here) as do those of more established living figures such as Steve Reich or John Adams. Other, especially younger, living composers are still making their case. We should not be surprised if they are not always able to fill halls in quite the same way.

 

For more responses to the article see the Guardian’s letter page.



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10 Jul  

Congratulations to the six projects chosen for this year’s Sound and Music Composer-Curator scheme. Each will receive funding over nine months.

 

Those selected were (as described on Sound and Music’s website):

 

Daffyd Roberts / Unland

 

Unland will draw together composers and participants to make new sound performances based around the psychogeographic memory of rural mid-Wales. It will utilise sound archives held in the National Library of Wales, including oral recordings of forest workers and community singing festivals (eisteddfodau) from the 1970s, which will provide the tangible material and stimulus that will be re-presented and re-worked. Participants will take part in workshops to explore sound interpretation, composition and improvisation leading to performances and public talks about sound, memory and place, at venues including the National Library of Wales and Ceredigion Museum.

 

Delia Stevens & Joe Snape/ Conundrums 

 

The composer-curator collective Conundrums (percussionist Delia Stevens, composer Joe Snape and creative producer Hayley Parkes) are launching a new, socially-engaged concert series called AlgoRhythms - a 3-date UK tour of specially commissioned and contemporary chamber music for percussion, electronics & video, responding to themes of censorship, data collection, algorithms and the digital media echo chamber.

 

More than just a live music event, AlgoRhythms also features a live discussion panel to encourage audience participation and interaction with the music and the project’s themes, taking it beyond standard concert formats. 21st Century ideas for 21st Century people.

 

James McIlwrath / AMOK

 

AMOK is an experimental performance platform based in York. AMOK showcases experimental performances by emerging and established composers and performers based locally and across the U.K. AMOK aims to foreground York’s cultural identity by utlising different venues from historic, vibrant and culturally significant spaces.Previous events have included performances by Trevor Wishart, OUT-TAKE Ensemble and Morag Galloway.

 

AMOK will commission Neil Luck, Catherine Robson and Lynette Quek, to write new works designed for three different venues, including a Georgian Kitchen. The concerts aim to engage and inspire a variety of audiences and generate life into these hidden venues in late 2019.

 

Lucie Treacher / A Catalogue of Bones and Stars

 

“A Catalogue of Bones and Stars” is a new outdoor immersive theatre adventure with music, based on the lives of two ground-breaking female scientists: the pioneering astrologer, Caroline Herschel and palaeontologist, Mary Anning. One looking up to the sky, one down to earth, both these women bravely delved into the scientific unknown. The show will bind theatre with music, using distinct sonic ideas from the rhythm of a pick-axe to the movement of stars in the sky. It will be performed on beaches across the Highlands and each performance will include a community beach-clean as well as workshops with literacy learners.

 

Rebecca Lee & Nastassja Simensky / Five Verses on Six Sacks of Earth

 

We will collaborate with a group of inspiring contemporary performers and practitioners to produce an interdisciplinary work, Five Verses on Six Sacks of Earth. This project develops three overlapping versions of the piece in performance, film and audio. Developed during a residency on an archeological dig, we use a layered approach including text, field recordings, composition, improvisation and design to think speculatively about archeology. Using a model exemplified by artists like Maria Fusco, we will explore making work that is both intensely place-specific but exists in different forms and engages audiences with different access, interests and backgrounds.

 

Sophie Cooper & Jake Blanchard / Tor

 

We are keen to programme a concert series that is very pro-Europe in the wake of the referendum to leave the EU, as a rejection of the vote and as a statement to show how important it is for the UK to have ties to the rest of Europe for inspiration, creative growth and opportunity. With support from Sound and Music we are able to invite musicians using traditional European instruments to Todmorden to demonstrate their practice at two local primary schools and also perform in the evening to an audience at The Golden Lion Hotel. We will also be funding new collaborative projects at our annual festival Tor Festival.

 

More information, including links to individual artists and projects, is available on Sound and Music’s Website.



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3 Jul  

Last year I reported on the work by UK record label Drama Musica and its project partner DONNE, Women in Music, who conducted a gender balance study of the 2018/19 orchestral season of 15 top orchestras. The results were startling: of the 3524 works, 82 were by female composers, 3442 by male. That is 2.3% vs. 97.7%. In total only 5.3% of concerts included works by women composers.

 

The organisations have just carried out the same study on the 2019/20 concert season. The results (see also infographic) showed only a small improvement (which is anyway too early to call a trend):

 

-123 of 1500 concerts include at least one piece by a woman composer. That is 8.2% of the total.

-At these concerts, 3997 musical works will be performed. 142 were written by women composers, 3855 were written by male composers. That is 3.6% vs. 96.4%.

 

Soprano Gabriella Di Laccio, founder and curator of DONNE, Women in Music, commented on the findings:

 

It is very difficult to find excuses for not having works by women composers present in every concert. There are thousands of music scores now widely available and the quality of the music is unquestionable. As artists, I truly believe we should always try to cultivate curiosity in our audiences, to open their eyes to a much richer and diverse musical world. It is possible and it is an incredibly enriching artistic experience for everyone. Plus, we will be supporting diverse role models for future generations. What could be better than that? 

 

The research was carried out by studying the repertoire of fairly mainstream orchestras: Royal Concertgebouw, Berliner Philharmoniker, Vienna Philharmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Dresden Staatskapelle, Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony Orchestra and São Paulo Symphony Orchestra. By ‘mainstream’ I mean orchestras that are likely to focus on core ‘canonic’ repertoire, with a smattering of new music. This seems an important consideration when reaching for conclusions about this data. Core repertoire tends to be male since traditionally, rightly or wrongly, composing has been a male occupation. This makes it seem difficult to achieve gender parity for orchestral groups that focus on older works.

 

There is one caveat, however. Those women who were working as composers were not always taken seriously, not afforded the same opportunities. Take Alma Mahler, whose more famous husband discouraged her composing. This in turn helped to ensure that the handful of works she did write were, for a long while, forgotten. Nowadays the experience of listening to one of her songs (see video, below) makes one wonder what else we have lost. A complete reassessment of our core repertoire of the type being carried out by Drama Musica seems, therefore, long overdue—heaven knows knows what marvels it might turn up. It would also mean that there are opportunities to redress historic gender imbalances.

 

Moving to the present day, I would be fascinated to see this research carried out upon contemporary music ensembles. That would give us a much better understanding of where we are headed. Whilst I am queasy about enforcing strict 50/50 gender balances in music or anything else (equality of opportunity seems better—apologies if I sound like Jordan Peterson), it seems a healthy loose goal. And, who knows, perhaps we might even discover that composing is actually more innately feminine. A couple of hundred years of feminine gender bias would go a long way towards correcting the sins of the past.

 

Alma Mahler - 5 Lieder for voice and piano



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3 Jul  

It was sad to see today that Borough New Music, whose season finished at the end of last month, has announced that it has no plans to continue. 

 

Though a relative newcomer on the London concert scene it mounted a huge amount of new music in its three seasons—in 2018, for example, there were 34 concerts that included 42 premieres with five guest artistic directors. The format also was a good one—the concerts were free, mounted at lunchtime, lasted around 45 minutes each and were followed by light refreshments. The perfect way to spend a lunch break. 

 

We must be grateful to Artistic Director Clare Simmonds and her team for their energy in sustaining the festival for this long. Let’s hope that she, and they, will move on to artistic pastures new.

 

Here’s a taste of what you missed from the 2019 season:



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27 Jun  

The Proms programme always raises debate. This year the focus has been on the number of female composers represented—whilst there is a better male/female balance, the most substantial commissions have been given to male composers. 

 

Last year saw some efforts towards greater equality, though arguably this felt tokenistic or merely thematic given that the Proms was also marking 100 years of female suffrage. One of 2018’s developments that has been carried over, however, has been the awarding of the prominent first night commission (a tradition that itself waxes and wanes) to a female composer, Zosha Di Castri, whose Long Is the Journey – Short Is the Memory will open this year’s festivities. Other substantial commissions, both male and female include new works by Dobrinka Tabakova, Linda Catlin Smith, Errollyn Wallen, Ryan Wigglesworth, Huw Watkins and Johnny Greenwood. 

 

The Proms website, for reasons I have never understood, doesn’t separate out the premieres, though you can find a complete list of programmed composers. Here then is a complete premieres list, with links to the individual concerts on the Proms website.

 

July 

 

19th Zosha Di Castri, Long Is the Journey – Short Is the Memory. BBCSO (WP). 

22nd Anna Thorvaldsdottir Metacosmos (UK). Orchestra of the Royal Academy of Music and the Julliard School. 

22nd Alexia Sloane. Earthward (WP). VOCES8.

22nd Hans Zimmer, Earth (WP). BBC Singers, CBeebies Prom Children's Choir, Chineke! Orchestra.

24th Péter Eötvös Alhambra (violin concerto) (UK). BBCSO.

25th Tobias Broström Nigredo: Dark Night of the Soul (concerto for two trumpets and orchestra) (UK). BBCNOW.

 

August

 

4th Outi Tarkiainen, Midnight Sun Variations (WP). BBC Philharmonic.

8th Huw Watkins, The Moon (WP). BBCNOW.

11th Benjamin Beckman, New Work (UK). The National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.

11th Detlev Glanert, Weites Land ('Musik mit Brahms' for orchestra) (UK). BBCSO.

13th Multiple composers, Birthday Variations for M. C. B. (WP). BBCSO.

15th Errollyn Wallen, This Frame Is Part of the Painting (WP). BBCNOW.

17th Joanna Lee, At this man’s hand (WP). BBC Singers.

19th Jonathan Dove, We Are One Fire (WP); Dieter Ammann, Piano Concerto (WP). BBCSO.

26th Jörg Widmann, Babylon Suite (London). Orchestre de Paris.

28th Ryan Wigglesworth, Piano Concerto (WP). Britten Sinfonia.  

31st Dobrinka Tabakova, New Work (WP). BBC Concert Orchestra.

 

September 

 

1st Linda Catlin Smith, New Work (WP). BBCSSO

8th Louis Andriessen, The Only One (UK). BBCSO.

9th Freya Waley-Cohen, New Work (WP). Knussen Chamber Orchestra.

10th Jonny Greenwood, Horror vacui – for solo violin and 68 strings (WP). BBCNOW.



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24 Jun  

Since 2008 the George Butterworth Award has been given annually by Sound and Music for an outstanding work created through one of its Artistic Development Programmes (before then it was awarded by SPNM, SaM’s forerunner). Previous winners include Richard Causton, Jeremy Thurlow and Egidija Medekšaitė.

 

This year’s award winner is Blasio Kavuma for his piece Spirit Level, a collaboration with choreographer Si Rawlinson that ‘explores themes of spirituality using various musical idioms like gospel, African traditional music and neo-Impressionism.’

 

You can hear Kavuma talking about the work in more detail below. The complete work is available here.

 

George Butterworth Award 2019 - Blasio Kavuma Interview



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19 Jun  

Cheltenham Music Festival (5th–14th July, venues in Cheltenham, UK), this year celebrating its 75th birthday, remains one of the UK’s most imaginative not to mention prestigious music festivals. This year’s programme is as busy as ever, with more than 60 events and 650 performers. The programme includes an abundance of new music, including 20 major premieres. 

 

On 5th the Nash Ensemble will give the first performance of a new work for flute and string trio by Judith Weir. The concert will also contain a tribute to the much-missed Oliver Knussen, with a performance of his Masks Op. 3 for solo flute. On the same day will be the chance to hear the premiere of Dani Howard’s Gates of Spring by the London Symphony Orchestra, which has been commissioned as a roof-raiser by Classic FM.

 

1956 marked the festival’s first commissioning of a female composer, Thea Musgrave. More than 60 years later, and as part of her own 90th birthday year celebrations, she has been commissioned to write a trumpet concerto for Alison Balsom and the CBSO, to be performed on 6th. The composer will be in conversation before the concert. 

 

On 9th John Woolrich’s Ostinato will receive its first performance by young pianist Jeneba Kanneh-Mason, a rising star worth watching. Woolrich will also be busy at the festival as Composer Academy Director. The eight emerging composers will work with him and the Kaleidoscope Chamber Collective to produce new works that will be performed as part of Composium, a symposium for composers, publishers, artists, managers and members of the public on 10th. That event will also comprise of talks, panel discussions and networking opportunities with figures that will include Thea Musgrave, musicologist and broadcaster Katy Hamilton, James Murphy (Chief Executive, Royal Philharmonic Society), Lucy Schaufer (Mezzo-soprano and Artistic Director, Wild Plum Arts), Hannah Kendall (Composer), Vanessa Reed (CEO, PRS Foundation), Denzyl Feigelson (Special Advisor, Apple Inc and iTunes), Zoe Martlew (Composer) and Harriet Wybor (PRS for Music – Classical).

 

Other premieres to look enjoy will include Alex Mills’s Crossing Over (6th), Konstantia Gourzi’s Call of the Bees (7th), works by Einojuhani Rautavaara and Betsy Jolas at a Classical Mixtape event (8th), Grace-Evangeline Mason’s Midnight Spires (9th), Freya Waley-Cohen’s Reflection on Christus Factus Est (10th), Anna Clyne’s Snake & Ladder (11th), Jonathan Dove’s Youth Gone (12th) and Dobrinka Tabakova’s Highland Pastorale (13th). The opening of the festival and its 75th anniversary will also be marked with the performance of a new fanfare for trumpets, the result of a composition competition on 5th.

 

More information and tickets are available here.



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15 Jun  

More sad news with the death of Danish composer and organist Ib Nørholm, who died on Monday aged 88.

 

Nørholm was born in Søberg, Denmark. He began his study of the piano aged 9, later learning the organ. He was a precocious as a composer, producing his chamber opera The Snail and the Rose Hedge at the age of 18. This was followed by studies at The Royal Danish Conservatoire with Vagn Holmboe. 

 

His early works place him in the lineage of Carl Nielsen and that of his teacher Holmboe. In the late 50s and early 60s, however, he was influenced by the avant-garde works of Stockhausen, Boulez and others and began to explore serialism and graphic notation. He quickly eschewed this and adopted a style that later became known as ‘new simplicity’. 

 

Nørholm was particularly known as a symphonist, though he was active in all genres: apart from his 13 symphonies his major works include concertos for violin and cello, eight string quartets and much other chamber music, several chamber operas, solo instrument sonatas, choral music and songs.

 

From 1965 Nørholm was a teacher at the Carl Nielsen Academy of Music in Odense and from 1981–2000 Professor of Composition at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. He was awarded the Gaudeamus International Composers Award in 1964 and the Carl Nielsen Prize in 1971. 

 

Ib Nørholm: Symphony No.9, Op.116 (1990)



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