I have had the pleasure of working with Britten Sinfonia for almost twelve months. Back in December, the twelve composers who had been shortlisted for Britten Sinfonia’s OPUS2015 scheme enjoyed a workshop with the horn player Richard Watkins, where we discussed every aspect of the horn, from extended techniques to, if I remember correctly, the treatment of the horn in Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.
Most of us were at that
stage in the middle of composing extracts of music for horn trio, all of which
were workshopped by Jackie Shave, Huw Watkins and Carys Evans in January this
year. Over the course of an intense
weekend, we heard what everyone had produced – which amounted to the best part
of an hour of music. It was a very
interesting – and very diverse – selection of pieces, and made for a lively and
fascinating couple of days.
delighted to be chosen as the winner, and as a result have extended my original
three-minute miniature into a full-length piece. The resulting work, Lifesize Gods, was workshopped again more recently, and following
that workshop I have given it a final few tweaks in advance of the
premiere. From here on in it will be the
most exciting part of the process, and, for me at least, the easiest: I can now
more or less simply sit and listen to the results.
One of the
interesting challenges of writing a horn trio is the small number of previously
written horn trios which have entered the repertoire. While I have come across a number of very fine
horn trios while writing my own, there are only two works which have firmly
entered the repertoire: those by Brahms and Ligeti. As a composer this situation brings both
advantages and disadvantages. There are
fewer models to which I might turn for inspiration – but, on the other hand,
there is not the weight of history that one has to deal with when writing, say, a string quartet.
interesting, then, that I will be sharing a programme with another new horn
trio, by Huw Watkins. I was, as it
happens, at the premiere of Huw’s Horn Trio in 2009, and vividly remember the
impression it made on me then; it will be a great pleasure to have the chance
to hear it again live – three times, no less!
It really is a fantastic piece, and is an important addition to the
repertoire which will doubtless continue to be performed for many years to
come. Huw and I are very different
composers, however, which is probably no bad thing, given that we will be
appearing in the same programme. While
Huw’s piece is lyrical, contrapuntal and full of contrast, my new work is, for
the most part, transparent, almost obsessively single-minded, and extremely
Britten Sinfonia have generously invited me to continue my involvement in the
scheme, and next week I will be working with Julian Philips to choose the
ten composers who will be shortlisted for OPUS2016. This is something very new to me, but
something that I am looking forward to immensely. A total of 287 composers have submitted
applications. It’s a daunting number,
but is testament to the fantastic nature of the opportunity that Britten
Sinfonia are offering – and I’m sure it will be much harder to leave people out
than to find people to shortlist.
aspect of my involvement with Britten Sinfonia has been being a part of
Musically Gifted. Musically Gifted is a
scheme which facilitates philanthropic donations to help fund commissions. People can donate anything from £10 to £1,000,
and all donors receive rewards, from thank you cards all the way up to
invitations to rehearsals and social events with performers and composer. The issue of how to fund contemporary music
is a complex one, and many composers are unable to earn anything like a living
from their composition work. Musically
Gifted is an imaginative and valuable contribution towards improving this
Lifesize Gods is being performed
at Britten Sinfonia’s At Lunch Series in St. Andrew’s Hall, Norwich, on 27 November; West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge, on 1 December; and Wigmore
Hall, London, on 2 December.
It promises to be a fantastic concert!
Edward Nesbit - OPUS2015 winner
Click here for more details and booking for At Lunch One, which features Edward's new work, Lifesize Gods.