Britten Sinfonia Chief Executive describes the premiere and rehearsals of John Tavener's Kaleidoscopes back in 2006 which we once again perform in the coming weeks;
Over its relatively short history, Britten Sinfonia was fortunate to maintain a warm and productive partnership with John Tavener, one of this country’s most original and celebrated composers who so sadly died late last year. Alongside performing his last major concert work, Flood of Beauty, at the Barbican on Sunday 28 September we were hugely honoured to take part in his memorial service at Westminster Abbey in June which was such an evocative and uplifting occasion. These two events remind me that it was back in in 1994 - only the orchestra’s second year - that we first worked with John Tavener. We premiered his large orchestral work Let’s Begin Again in Norwich Cathedral and from this point regularly commissioned and performed a good number of works over the years, including his oboe concerto Kaleidoscopes. It’s one of my favourite pieces of John’s and written for our very own Nicholas Daniel, who is the inspiration and (literal) centre of the piece. The premiere was back in 2007, and I recall the rehearsal well for a number of reasons: sitting next to John following the score with his publisher and close friend Gill Graham; hearing the music for the first time (so obviously a special piece) with the opening transparent harmonies of the four quartets, so beautifully calibrated with the oboe rising to ever higher registers… and also being plunged into darkness towards the end of the piece, with Gill and I pooling our respective Nokias to shed light on the score, much to the amusement of the composer.
Kaleidoscopes is a piece which makes effective use of staging and movement to enhance the music, with the oboist circling around the four quartets placed like attendant planets at the far edges of the stage. We’ve tried to continue these antiphonal, spatial and chamber music themes throughout the rest of the programme: The Mozart quartet, also a nod to Tavener’s musical inspiration; the thrilling Adams Shaker Loops in its original sextet form, but perhaps most notably in Kurtag’s two miniatures, which has the musicians placed around the hall and the audience at the centre. Many thanks to Georgy Kurtag and Thomas Adès who have allowed us to perform Tom’s arrangement tonight, originally written for a one-off private performance in Dartington, and is heard tonight for the first time in public.
Chief Executive, Britten Sinfonia
Kaleidoscopes will be performed in London's Milton Court on Monday 29th September, Cambridge's West Road Concert Hall on Friday 3 October and Norwich's Theatre Royal on Sunday 5 October. Click here for full details.