Tag Archives: British composers

Meet the Artist……Jonathan Dove, composer

Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?

Since my earliest years, I’ve had an impulse to make up pieces at the piano, and that hasn’t really changed – except that eventually I learned to write them down, and nowadays often play virtual instruments via a keyboard. When enough people started asking me to write them something, it turned into a career.

Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?

Musicians and theatre-makers who asked me to write music for them, including dancer/choreographer Clare Whistler and director Jonathan Kent; and who listened, encouraged and offered constructive criticism, notably composers Stephen Oliver and Julian Grant, conductors David Parry and Brad Cohen, opera-directors Graham Vick and Richard Jones. Probably the most significant of all were two people at Glyndebourne, Katie Tearle and Anthony Whitworth-Jones, who commissioned my first published piece (the wind serenade Figures in the Garden), three community operas, and my first main-stage (and most widely produced) opera – Flight.

What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?

Trying to get the current piece to be as good as I believe it can be.

What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?

With a commission comes a deadline, without which I never finish a piece. More exciting, there is a date when you know certain musicians will be performing your piece in a particular place. The idea of these wonderful singers or instrumentalists is, in itself, inspiring.

How would you characterise your compositional language?

Pandiatonic, rhythmically driven, singable.

How do you work?

Dreamily and fitfully at first, as vague initial ideas start to emerge; then more continuously, as they gradually turn into stronger, more potent ideas. Mostly I work out pieces at the keyboard, but walking and cycling are also an important part of the process.

Who are your favourite musicians/composers?

Mozart, Stravinsky, John Adams

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Write the music you want to hear.

 

Renowned vocal ensemble VOCES8 will perform Jonathan Dove’s The Passing of the Year (with the composer at the piano) in a special Holy Week concert at St John’s Smith Square on 11th April that brings together themes of beauty, hope, prayer and celebration. Repertoire includes Bach’s cantata Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich BWV150 with French ensemble Les Inventions. Further details here

Born in 1959 to architect parents, Jonathan Dove’s early musical experience came from playing the piano, organ and viola. Later he studied composition with Robin Holloway at Cambridge and, after graduation, worked as a freelance accompanist, repetiteur, animateur and arranger. His early professional experience gave him a deep understanding of singers and the complex mechanics of the opera house. Opera and the voice have been the central priorities in Dove’s output throughout his subsequent career.

Read Jonathan Dove’s full biography here

A Land So Luminous

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A Land So Luminous – music by Richard Causton and Kenneth Hesketh, performed by The Continuum Ensemble under the direction of conductor Philip Headlam with outstanding soloists including soprano Mary Bevan, violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen, pianist Douglas Finch, flautist Lisa Nelsen and cellist Joseph Spooner.

The disc features work for large ensemble, duos, trios and music for solo flute, cello and piano. Kenneth Hesketh and Richard Causton are amongst the foremost British composers of their generations, and ‘A Land So Luminous’ showcases their distinct compositional voices and musical craftsmanship, from Hesketh’s piquant, light-filled textures to Causton’s inventiveness and imagination. The music on the disc is diverse and atmospheric, and draws inspiration from an eclectic catalogue of sources, including Heinrich Hoffman’s 19th cautionary tales for children, Der Struwwelpeter (‘Shock-Headed Peter’), the poetry of Marina Tsvetayeva, Fats Waller, shamanic ritual and Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, K. 622. The title track ‘A Land So Luminous’ takes its name from a piece by writing by 17th century French philosopher-poet Cyrano de Bergerac.

All the works on the disc reveal strong musical gestures and means of expression. Hesketh’s works are expansive, visual and colourful: in Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher (‘Don’t Suck Your Thumb’) clarinet and piano dart and weave in a playful yet faintly grotesque dance; while in the second ‘Netsuke’ long sustained sounds emerge overlaid by a wistful clarinet melody gradually build to an unsettling climax. Causton’s ‘Threnody’ is a haunting setting of the English translation of a poem by Marina Tsvetayeva. The piece relies on the musicians being sensitive about their roles, resulting in a work of concentrated poignancy. Mary Bevan’s crystalline yet highly expressive voice is complemented by elegaic clarinets and a delicate piano part. In ‘Sleep’, a work for unaccompanied solo flute inspired by a poem called ‘Mythistorema’ by George Seferis, Causton creates an unsettling aural image of sleep, beset by frequent changes in time signature and tempo. Lisa Nelsen, on flute, displays control and sensitivity in her performance. The night-time theme continues in ‘Night Piece’ for solo piano, based on the clarinet line from the slow movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto and performed by Douglas Finch, who brings a delicate clarity and tenderness to this dreamlike work.

Recommended

Release by Prima Facie Records

Meet the Artist…… interview with Kenneth Hesketh

A triptych of premieres in Brighton

Brighton-based pianist Helen Burford presented a varied and creative programme of music in a Sunday afternoon concert as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival. Praised for her innovative and joyful approach to programming, the concert included three world premieres by contemporary British composers Georgina Bowden, Sadie Harrison and Barry Mills interpersed with works by Bill Evans, J S Bach, Claude Debussy and Chick Corea.

The concert opened with what I have come to regard as Helen’s “signature piece”, the haunting and hypnotic Incarnation II by Japanese composer Somei Satoh. Twelve extraordinary minutes of an absorbing soundscape, the work relies on primarily on the prolongation of vibrations (repeated notes) and is an exercise in control on the part of the performer who is given free will in the work as to how long it should last. Through these devices, the work conjures up the most extraordinary sonorities – horns, cellos, bells, drums. This was followed by the first premiere of the afternoon, ‘Hymn for Piano’ by Georgian Bowden, which also explored the sonorities of the piano in contemplative chords and gentle movements around the keyboard, and was played with a simple sensitivity by Helen.

Helen is noted for unusual programme juxtapositions and at first placing a prelude and fugue by J S Bach with Bill Evans’s jazz classic ‘Peace Piece’ may seem curious. But in the fact it proved fascinating, for the arabesques in Bach’s writing were neatly reflected in filigree improvisatory motifs in Peace Piece, all set over an ostinato bass line redolent of Satie’s Gymnopedies. This also set the scene for Sadie Harrison’s Four Jazz Portraits, written for Helen and inspired by jazz greats Bill Evans, Thelonius Monk, Fats Waller and Albert Ammons. The four miniatures all contained witty references to these jazz greats, and were delivered with deftness and humour by Helen.

The third part of the programme stepped away from jazz and into music inspired by the landscape. Debussy’s Bruyeres from the second book of Preludes evokes heather (or a town in northern France). This was paired with Barry Mill’s ‘Evocations’ whose titles – Falmer Pond with Ducks, Geese and Gulls, The Rowan Tree and Clouds forming, Clouds dissolving (Homage to Debussy) – suggest similar settings to Debussy’s work. The works by Mills recalled Debussy in their colourful harmonies and trimbres, and swirling movements.

The concert closed with a triptych by Chick Corea – ‘Where Have I Loved You Before’, ‘Where Have I Danced With You Before” and Where Have I Known You Before’ – all played with affection and an acute sense of their improvisatory nature.

Details of Helen’s forthcoming concerts here

www.helenburford.com

Celebrating 150 years of Sibelius and Nielsen

(photo credit: Gareth Barton)
(photo credit: Gareth Barton)

Violinist Fenella Humphreys and pianist Nicola Eimer celebrate the 150th anniversaries of Jean Sibelius and Carl Nielsen in a concert combining works for violin and piano by these two composers, together with new works by contemporary composers.

Alongside works by Sibelius and Nielsen, the duo will premiere a new set of five pieces composed on the footprint of Sibelius’s Five Pieces op.81 by Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Alasdair Nicolson, Matthew Taylor, David Knotts and Anthony Powers.

Programme

Jean Sibelius: 4 Pieces for violin & piano, Op.115
Cheryl Frances-Hoad: New work for PUR 4 Feb 2015 after Sibelius’ 5 Pieces for violin & piano, Op.81
Alasdair Nicholson: New work for PUR 4 Feb 2015 after Sibelius’ 5 Pieces for violin & piano, Op.81
David Knotts: New work for PUR 4 Feb 2015 after Sibelius’ 5 Pieces for violin & piano, Op.81knotts da
Matthew Taylor: New work for PUR 4 Feb 2015 after Sibelius’ 5 Pieces for violin & piano, Op.81
Anthony Powers: New work for PUR 4 Feb 2015 after Sibelius’ 5 Pieces for violin & piano, Op.81
Jean Sibelius: Sonatina in E for violin & piano, Op.80
Interval
Carl Nielsen: Violin Sonata No.2 in G, Op.35

The concert takes place on 4th February 2015 at the Purcell Room, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre. Further information and tickets here

‘Fenella Humphreys responds to its elegiac reflection and technical display at top flight level’ (Orchestral Choice CD, 5* BBC Music Magazine)

‘Nicola Eimer is an outstanding artist’ (The Strad Magazine)

Celebrating Ronald Stevenson and Ronald Center

Ronald Stevenson

A concert exploring a selection of piano works written by two distinctive voices of Scotland’s classical music scene in the 20th century. Ronald Stevenson, whose 85th birthday year it is, is a recognised giant of British Music and an authority on the life and work of Ferruccio Busoni. Perhaps most renowned as a composer for his gigantic Passacaglia on DSCH, the programme will feature some of Stevenson’s smaller piano works.

Ronald Center

Stevenson is honoured in conjunction with a composer rarely heard of even within Scotland during his own lifetime, Ronald Center, whose centenary passed this April. Ever a reclusive character, it is only recently that his music has begun to re-emerge with the first ever survey on record of his complete piano music, by Trinity Laban’s Richard Carne Junior Fellow in Performance, Christopher Guild. A classicist at heart, Center’s music, with its influences of Britten, Prokofiev and Hindemith, stands very much in contrast to much of Stevenson’s.

This FREE, unticketed concert will appeal anyone with an interest in British Music, and those with a passion for making musical discoveries.

PROGRAMME:

Ronald Stevenson: Komm, Susser Tod
Ronald Stevenson: Sonata Senerissima
Ronald Center: Giglot and Toccata
Ronald Center: Six Bagatelles
Ronald Stevenson: Wegenlied aus Alban Bergs Oper ‘Wozzeck’
Ronald Center: Piano Sonata

Performed by:

Alex Lewis, Madelaine Jones, Sally Halsey, Clare Simmonds and Christopher Guild.

Venue:

Thursday 27th June, 6.30pm, Peacock Room, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, King Charles Court, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London SE10 9JF (public transport: DLR Greenwich Cutty Sark, Riverbus Greenwich Pier)

Pianist Christopher Guild will feature in a forthcoming Meet the Artist interview.