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Work of the Week – Julian Anderson: ECHOES

A concert by and for the LGBTQ+ community: The world premiere of the new orchestral work ECHOES by Julian Anderson will take place on July 07 2023 with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in London. Oliver Zeffman will conduct and Davóne Tines will sing the baritone solo part.

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Work of the Week – Kurt Weill: The Seven Deadly Sins

The Seven Deadly Sins (Die sieben Todsünden) is one of Kurt Weill’s best-known and most frequently performed works. On 21 September, a new orchestration of the ballet chanté for 15 players will receive its premiere at Beethovenfest Bonn with Ensemble Modern and soloist Sarah Maria Sun conducted by HK Gruber. The new version has been created by Gruber and Christian Muthspiel in collaboration with the Kurt Weill Foundation and Schott Music.

The Brecht text is not a period piece. It is absolutely contemporary. In our day The Seven Deadly Sins is a manifesto against capitalism run amok, and it's a dangerous piece - for the capitalists. Because it lays bare how the world works: if you are honest, you have to pay the price, here, during this life. It is even more timely than it was twenty or thirty years ago.  (HK Gruber)

The Seven Deadly Sins: An Iconic Work in a New Orchestration

Initiated by the Kurt Weill Foundation, the new orchestration of The Seven Deadly Sins will for the first time enable fully staged performances by smaller ensembles, theatres and dance companies. The work has received innumerable successful interpretations and the new version will open up further possibilities for creative productions in even more varied settings. The soprano soloist in Gruber and Muthspiel’s version is accompanied by a male vocal quartet and the following ensemble: 1(pic).0.2.1-

HK Gruber is regarded as a leading Weill expert, having frequently conducted, performed and recorded The Seven Deadly Sins and other works throughout his career. This new orchestration is characterised by its high level of fidelity to the original work, retaining Weill's original keys and using the ensemble in innovative ways to match the characteristic timbres of the orchestral version.

Playing on double-standards that are placed on the sisters, Anna 1 and Anna 2, as they make their seven-year journey through different US cities, the highly ironic and satirical work features some of Weill’s most recognisable music. It incorporates numerous popular American musical styles including foxtrot, polka, and barbershop. Despite being sung in German, the work was a success at its premiere performance in 1933 in Paris where Weill was living in exile, and it received a UK premiere at the Savoy Theatre that same year.

photo: Staatstheater Stuttgart / Bernhard Weis

Work of the Week - Ryan Wigglesworth: Piano Concerto

Ryan Wigglesworth will make no fewer than three appearances as a conductor at this year’s BBC Proms, including on 28 August 2019 when he will direct the world premiere of his Piano Concerto with Marc-André Hamelin and Britten Sinfonia. The new work is the result of a joint commission between BBC Radio 3 and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

From the chorale figures of its opening arioso, to the contrapuntal scherzo and trio and the fugal finale, Wigglesworth’s Piano Concerto is characterised by its incorporation of Classical form and stylistic elements into his own contemporary idiom.
The solo piano part, neither bravura nor particularly virtuosic, often displays a poetic, intimate character. The work’s four movements are studies in character. The first, songlike; the second, a fast scherzo with a gentler central trio; the third, a nocturne based on a folk melody; and finally, a lively contrapuntal Gigue. - Ryan Wigglesworth

The lightly scored Notturno is one of the work’s more intimate moments. The orchestra is reduced to just strings and harp, accompanying the soloist in a small set of variations based on a Polish folk song Wigglesworth first heard around a campfire. His personal association of the melody with night is rendered in the dream-like and occasionally nightmarish quality of this movement.

Ryan Wigglesworth: Piano Concerto – Incorporation of classical form in a contemporary idiom

Audiences will be able to hear Wiggleworth’s Piano Concerto in performances around the world in coming seasons, including on 27, 28 and 29 February 2020 with Seattle Symphony Orchestra.



Photo: Benjamin Ealovega

Work of the Week - Mark-Anthony Turnage: The Silver Tassie

On 10 November 2018, the BBC Symphony Orchestra will perform Mark-Anthony Turnage’s opera The Silver Tassie (1997-1999) in concert  as part of their In Remembrance World War I series at the Barbican in London. Ryan Wigglesworth will conduct, with an excellent cast including Sally Matthews, Sir John Tomlinson, Claire Booth, Marcus Farnsworth, Louise Alder, Susan Bickley, and Ashley Riches as Harry, the lead character.

Based on Sean O’Casey’s 1928 play on the futility of war, The Silver Tassie is set in Dublin during World War I. Its title, referring to a footballing trophy, comes from a Scottish song text by Robert Burns “Go fetch to me a pint o’ wine, an’ fill it in a silver tassie; that I may drink before I go, a service to my bonnie lassie”. The opera was co-commissioned by English National Opera whilst Turnage was their Composer in Association, and Dallas Opera.

Mark-Anthony Turnage - The Silver Tassie: the tragedy of war

The story of The Silver Tassie centres around Harry Heagen - a handsome soldier on leave from the Great War, and a renowned footballer. Triumphant after winning the football cup ‘The Silver Tassie’ for his team, Harry leaves his family and girlfriend Jessie for the front. There he is rescued from death by his best friend Barney, but loses the use of his legs and is confined to a wheelchair. Harry then discovers Jessie has deserted him for Barney, and the final act brings a poignant and moving conclusion, as he sets off to face an uncertain future.
It is not only words that come across vividly, but feelings too. The sheer theatricality of the music is dazzling. Turnage knows precisely how to hold the audience's interest and sympathy, timing each scene consummately and providing haunting "tag" tunes and a series of grand operatic gestures. – Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph

Further upcoming performances for Turnage include the staging of his explosive first opera Greek (1986-1988) at New York’s Brooklyn Academy of Music from 5-9 December 2018.


© Foto: Keith Saunders

Work of the Week: Gerald Barry – Canada

Ludwig van Beethoven and Canada. What do those two have in common?

Gerald Barry’s new work for voice and orchestra, Canada, will have its world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms on 21 August.

Specially commissioned for the Proms, it will be performed by tenor Allan Clayton and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla.

"Some time ago I was in Toronto airport returning to Dublin. When I got through security, Canada suddenly came into my head: a setting of the Fidelio Prisoners' Chorus for voice and orchestra." Gerald Barry

Gerald Barrys Canada – A tribute to Beethoven

The text, in English, French and German, includes the lines "Speak softly! We are watched with eyes and ears" from Beethoven’s politically charged and only opera, Fidelio. Barry holds Beethoven in high regard, considering him to be the greatest composer that ever lived. Many of his own works draw on the letters and works of Beethoven.  These include Schott and Sons, Mainz for bass solo and SATB choir which uses selected texts from Beethoven’s letters to his publisher and Beethoven for bass voice and ensemble which also features excerpts from Beethoven’s personal letters to his "Immortal Beloved".
“Canada, the name and country, is both everyday and strange to me - exotically normal.” Gerald Barry

Other new works for Barry this season include an Organ Concerto for organist Thomas Trotter commissioned jointly by Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra.

Beethoven would celebrate his 250. birthday in 2020. If you’re still looking for suitable musical programme, you’re invited to have a look at the recent Schott journal for inspiration.

Work of the Week: Alexander Goehr – Vanishing Word

On 25 November, Ensemble Modern will give a concert focused on the music of Alexander Goehr at the Wigmore Hall in London, including the UK premiere of his major song cycle Vanishing Word with mezzo-soprano Lucy Schaufer and tenor Christopher Gillet. The following day, the same performers present the concert at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt, marking the work’s German premiere.

First composed in 2013 for two voices and piano, Vanishing Word is a cycle of songs, duets and instrumental pieces orchestrated in 2015 for mezzo soprano, tenor and ensemble. The work explores the ambiguities of words, of ideas, and of human understanding. Goehr has set seven texts by six different authors, among them Jakob Böhme, Rainer Maria Rilke and Ingeborg Bachmann, that address in some manner man’s distance from nature and the ways in which language and meaning diverge over time. Between the sung movements, the words ‘vanish’ in five instrumental preludes.

Vanishing Word: The meaning of meaning

Vanishing Word begins with a metaphor of language as a tree, as described by the 17th century German mystic Jakob Böhme. Through growth and separations, the universal language of nature becomes divided into increasingly weaker languages. In the second song Goehr sets the story of how Adam was ordered by God to assign a name to each animal, and the following texts are settings of poems which reflect on the nature and use of words. The texts captured Goehr’s attention while he was working on his earlier song cycle for baritone TurmMusik (2009) which tells the biblical story of the Tower of Babylon, and is thus related thematically to Vanishing Word.

Vanishing Word had its world premiere on 22 January 2016 in New York by the Juilliard Ensemble, after which the cycle was lauded for its combination of mysticism and transparency.
The impression I aim to create is one of transparency: the listener should perceive, both in the successive and simultaneous dimensions of the score, the old beneath the new and the new arising from the old. – Alexander Goehr

Alongside Vanishing Word, Ensemble Modern will give the world premiere of two other pieces by Goehr, Manere II for clarinet and horn and Manere III for clarinet, horn and violin, to complement Goehr’s existing Manere I (2008). The title ‘Manere’ refers to a particular melisma from Gregorian chant that, for several centuries, was frequently used in works by composers including by Pérotin and Machaut before largely disappearing.