Monday 30 March 2009

Fuseleeds09 with Efterklang

In a Fuseleeds09 exclusive and UK premiere, Britten Sinfonia and Copenhagen-based Efterklang come together to create a unique project, encapsulating the truly eclectic fusion, and pioneering, diverse vision of the festival.

Fuseleeds is a major biennial music festival celebrating the wealth and diversity of today's vibrant new music scene. When the festival launched in 2004 it broke the mould by presenting a programme that encouraged artistic risk-taking across genres through commissions and collaborations presented in new and exciting ways.

Our concert on 25 April at Leeds Academy will include John Woolrich's Stealing a March, Tansy Davies' Hinterland, and three Frank Zappa classics: Be-Bop Tango, Outrage at Valdez and G-Spot Tornado. Then we will present the UK premiere of Efterklang's score to their celebrated 2007 album Parades (The Leaf Label) for band and orchestra. The band will perform their majestic, otherworldly pop songs alongside Britten Sinfonia.

Box office details are here.

Thursday 26 March 2009

The news is out

Our visit to the Latitude Festival in July has been announced. Final details are being resolved (and will be on our website at the earliest opportunity), but this is another great chance for us to take our message about what a modern orchestra is about to a wider audience: see Charlotte Higgins in yesterday's Guardian (Budge up, Nick Cave and Grace Jones - Britten Sinfonia set to play Latitude).

Friday 20 March 2009

What are we listening to?

So, what are we in the Britten Sinfonia office listening to (the first of an occasional series............)?
'Eclectic' is a cliche, but best describes The Marketing and Development team's current range.

Frances' current list:
'Fleet Foxes (this one’s a bit trendy!)
Biffy Clyro (this one’s a bit EMO, eek)
Alphabeat (this one’s a little shameful, electro pop)
Red Arc/Blue Veil – by John Luther Adams (experimental)

I enjoy Walton’s incidental music for Henry V: Passacaglia, The Death of Falstaff, and Touch her soft lips and part. – I’m sure it must be a classic FM favourite

Lauridsen Nocturnes (I love track 9)?

Bartok, Allegro Barbaro is a favourite at times and String Quartet No. 6.'

Claire's current favourites:
'At the moment in the car I’m listening to;
Earth Wind and Fire – Best of – you can’t beat a bit of disco for late night driving after a concert
Eleanor McEvoy’s album Yola – fantastic Irish singer/songwriter who’s quite folky – saw her live at artsdepot last year
Brahms – Symphony No.1 with Bernstein conducting
Mexican Institue of Sound – Pinata – it’s hilariously good

And on my hi-fi the most recent things I’ve listened to in the last week or so are;
Kate Rusby – either Awkward Annie, Underneath the Stars and The Girl Who Couldn’t Fly – all fantastic albums – I’m looking forward to seeing her live again in April
Janacek – Sinfonietta – the brass opening is fantastic
Freak Power – Turn On, Tune In, Cop Out – heard them live at a festival last year and although the album is a bit old school its still great
Esbjorn Svenson Trio (EST) – Tuesday Wonderland and Seven Days of Falling – fabulous and such a shame Esbjorn died last year, lucky enough to see them live 3 times (I also love listening to EST Live ’95 on my ipod)
Finzi Clarinet Concerto with Richard Hickox conducting
Radiohead – The Bends – simply because it is one of the best albums ever
The Cardigans – Life – perfect for a sunny day
Satie – Piano Works with Joanna MacGregor – I lent this CD to someone and have only just got it back so its great being able to listen to this again
Nico Muhly – Mothertongue – research/finding out about music BS is performing next season
And of course Britten Sinfonia’s new CD Songs of the Sky!

Haven’t listened to my ipod in the last week (no long train journeys) – but most recently;
Amy Winehouse
Brahms String Quintets 1 & 2
Stravinsky – The Firebird suite
EST Live 95
Lucie Silvas – Breathe In (not sure whether I want to admit that one).'

This all makes my list a little prosaic!
The Sixteen's new CD of Purcell and James MacMillan, Bright Orb of Harmony

Anything by Christina Pluhar and L'Arpeggiata, especially their new Monteverdi CD Teatro d'Amore

Concerto Italiano's recording of Vivaldi's L'Olimpiade, starring the amazing Roberta Invernizzi
Amy MacDonald, whom I heard live at the V Festival last summer
Our own recording of Lukaszewski's Via Crucis.

More soon........!

Thursday 19 March 2009

Bach Plus with Alina Ibragimova

Alina Ibragimova joins us for Bach Plus in Cambridge (19 March), Norwich (20 March) and Inverness (22 March).

Music by J.S. Bach, Alban Berg, and Gyorgy Kurtag.

Friday 13 March 2009

György Kurtág

Opportunities to hear György Kurtág's music are all too rare, although the Aldeburgh Festival did something to rectify this last summer: Pierre-Laurent Aimard is clearly a fan. Our next project features Kurtág's Signs, Games and Messages , when we will be performing six selected movements:

I: Hommage à J.S.B.
II: Népdalféle
III: Jelek VI
IV: Panaszos nóta
V: Hommage à Ránki György
VI: The Carenza Jig

Jo Kirkbride has written: 'Born in Romania in 1926, Kurtág’s musical career began with piano and composition lessons from the age of 14, and it was not long before Kurtág began dreaming of joining Béla Bartók’s composition class at the Lizst Academy in Budapest. Sadly, news of Bartók’s death came shortly before he was able to join the Academy, but this disappointment brought Kurtág closer to a fellow student who was also lamenting his loss: György Ligeti. The two composers developed a lifelong friendship, built upon a shared outlook on music and an insatiable curiosity for life. Quoting Ligeti after his death, Kurtág noted their shared ambition, which rested on a desire to inspect and question at all times: ‘As different as the criteria for art and science are, they are similar in that those who work in them are driven by curiosity. The key thing in both areas is to investigate coherences still undiscovered by others, and to create structures that haven't existed until now.’

While typically concise and elegantly executed, Kurtág’s music sets out to explore the complexities of life and to distil these ideas into musical form. As Zoran Minderovic writes: ‘Spellbinding, expressive, mysterious, and deeply engaging, Kurtág's music is a constant effort to describe the indescribable, to explore the human microcosm, to shed light on the human experience.’ His fascination with the fragility of life derives in part from his interest in the works of Samuel Beckett, a trait which is reflected throughout his oeuvre by a fascination with musical games and signs, and with the potential expressivity of silence.

Signs, Games and Messages is itself a game, playing upon the titles of Kurtág's earlier works: Signs, Op. 5 is a work for viola written in 1961, Games for piano was begun in 1973 and Messages of the Late R V Troussova, Op. 17 was written between 1976-80 for soprano and chamber ensemble. Kurtág's ‘reuse’ of earlier works also extends to the musical material – a number of the movements from Signs, Games and Messages also appear elsewhere in earlier works, though Kurtág hoped that by ‘reassembling’ them into an alternative work he might draw attention to similarities and connections that would otherwise go unnoticed. This unusual approach to compositional development extends forwards as well as backwards: as well as reusing earlier material and ideas, Kurtág also leaves compositions ‘open’, so that they might be expanded upon and developed far into the future. As such, Signs, Games and Messages does not have an Opus number, nor a date of completion.

Among the movements being performed in this project is the ‘Hommage à J.S.B’: a musical tribute to J.S. Bach, whom Kurtág admired greatly for his finely-wrought, intricate compositions. Initially written for flute, piano and double bass as part of Kurtág’s Bagatelles, Op. 14d, the movement is built around a single melodic line by Bach, whose structure implies the coexistence of two different voices within a single part. Fascinated by this kind of structural game, Kurtág explores the developmental possibilities of the melody throughout the movement, effectively carrying out an analysis of Bach’s melody through his own composition.'

You can hear this work in Cambridge (19 March), Norwich (20 March) and in Inverness (22 March), during our Bach Plus concerts with Alina Ibragimova (violin).

Wednesday 11 March 2009

4 stars and first Songs of the Sky CD coverage

Reading tomorrow's reviews online today is a bit like picking up the early editions of the papers at King's Cross station at 11pm at night. Anyway, here is Richard Morrison's take on our current At Lunch project in Thursday's Times, with a welcome endorsement of our first 'own label' CD.

Songs of the Sky

The first CD on our new 'own label' is now available: Songs of the Sky. It features works by Steve Martland, Huw Watkins, Tarik O'Regan, Jason Yarde and John Tavener, all of which we have commissioned in recent years and premiered during our Britten Sinfonia At Lunch tours.

The label is being run in association with Signum Records, from whose website you can order it. We will be selling copies at all our own promotions of course (around 20 people in Cambridge bought it yesterday), and you can also order it via your usual retail outlet. The plan is to bring out 4 or 5 CDs a year, reflecting the breadth of our repertoire. Next up will be a CD of Hindemith, followed by a recording we made in South America with Joanna MacGregor: Britten Sinfonia in Buenos Aires. Start collecting!

Tuesday 10 March 2009

Adam Walaciński

We had planned to premiere a work by Paweł Mykietyn this week, but unfortunately the composer has been ill and has been unable to complete the commission. With our Krakow connections, we are pleased that we have been able to find a replacement piece by a native of that city, Adam Walaciński. Born towards the end of the 1920s, he is particularly renowned as a film composer. You can see his extensive filmography here. He wrote Little Music of Autumn in 1986.

You can hear this in Cambridge today, in London tomorrow, in Birmingham on Thursday, and in Norwich on Friday in our Britten Sinfonia at Lunch series. Other works are by Purcell (ed. Britten), John Woolrich, and Schoenberg.

We are grateful to the Polish Cultural Institute for their financial support for this tour.