Dialogues for piano and chamber orchestra was a BBC Radio 3 commission for the brilliant young British pianist Nicolas Hodges and is scored for piano solo and a chamber orchestra comprising 18 instruments. Carter writes that “Dialogues is a conversation between the soloist and the orchestra: responding to each other, sometimes interrupting one another or arguing.”
Elliott Carter: “Dialogues” (2004) for solo piano and 18 instruments. David Swan – piano, New Music Concerts Ensemble
Symphony No. 1 in G minor, Op. 7, FS 16 is the first symphony of Danish composer Carl Nielsen. Written between 1891 and 1892, it was dedicated to his wife, Anne Marie Carl-Nielsen. The work’s première, on 14 March 1894 was performed by Johan Svendsen conducting the Chapel Royal Orchestra (Royal Danish Orchestra), with Nielsen himself among the second violins. It is one of two symphonies by Nielsen without a subtitle (the other being his Symphony No. 5).
The symphony is in the standard four movements, with the following tempo markings:
Allegro comodo — Andante sostenuto — Tempo I
Finale. Allegro con fuoco
A typical performance takes approximately 35 minutes.
The symphony’s melodies have a distinctive Danish flavour and are imbued with Nielsen’s personal style. Nielsen scholar Robert Simpson describes the composer’s symphonic debut as “probably the most highly organized first symphony ever written by a young man of twenty-seven.”
The work opens in G minor, and closes with a rousing peroration in C major. This tendency to move away from the original key to C major is the basis of the whole symphony’s tonal structure, and displays for the first time Nielsen’s hallmark compositional device, “progressive tonality.” (Nielsen at one stage even thought of calling the work “Symphony in C”.) Robert Simpson states in his book Carl Nielsen, Symphonist, 1865–1931: ”it is possibly the first symphony to end in a key other than that in which it started”.
She seduces, she kills, she winds up a prostitute and gets murdered by Jack the Ripper. Greed-filled, lusty Lulu is the 20th century’s greatest opera.
I was 14 and in hospital with an appendicitis that had turned into peritonitis. The BBC was broadcasting a piece of opera history – the first ever performance of Alban Berg’s Lulu in its entirety. It was 24 February 1979, and I watched as much as I could. Even though I was feeling terribly ill, the opera made an unforgettable impact on me. Some youthful enthusiasms diminish over time. Lulu never has. It has grown richer and stranger over the years.
The premiere took place at the Opéra Garnier in Paris, and the BBC put it out on prime-time TV; things have certainly changed in the last 30 years. What strikes everyone, on first viewing, is the apparently tawdry quality of Lulu’s subject matter compared with the sumptuous beauty of the score. Lulu is a woman of limitless sexual allure, who takes one man after another, rising in the social scale while killing them or driving them to suicide in turn. She is arrested for the murder of one husband, Doctor Schön, and so begins her descent. By the end, she is prostituting herself in a London garret; her last client is Jack the Ripper, who murders her and her lesbian lover, Countess Geschwitz.
Thirty years on, Berg’s opera seems an indisputable candidate for the greatest opera of the 20th century. But that 1979 performance of the three-act Lulu came 44 years after Berg died, apparently from blood poisoning caused by an insect bite. After the composer’s death, the work was regarded as a decadent oddity – perverse, bizarre and, most importantly, unfinished. The long delay in the work being given a proper performance was a catastrophe for 20th-century music. [Source]
Read the German reviews of the performace at the Berliner Festtage 2012 here, here and here.
There are still tickets for the last three of five performances in Berlin here.
Ulation uses the computer as a second instrument to listen to and enhance the viola. This is done through intended glitches and samples triggered when certain notes or gestures are hit. I would like to thank Iain Jennison for the hours spent helping me write this piece. Ulation is also loosely inspired by Jason Staddon’s Barotrauma. Recorded by Iain Jennison April 2012 (who also does a bit of a dance at the end).
For John Cage, nature always provided an important source of inspiration. On a tour with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company in Arizona 1975, dancer Charles Moulton brought John Cage a dried cactus, placed it near his ear and plucked its spines. This inspired John Cage to use cacti as musical instruments in pieces like Child of Tree (1975) and Branches (1976).The instruments in Branches are plants, preferably cacti, which are touched, plucked and »played«. The resulting sounds are amplified with contact microphones. From the score, the performers create their respective instruments with the assistance of the Chinese I-Ching’s coin oracle. In doing so, they determine which and how many instruments are to be played and when a break should take place. One of the instruments should be a Mexican pod rattle, which is always to be played as the final of the 8-minute variations. The performance, directed by Peter Behrendsen, combines Branches with Inlets (1977). Water-filled conch shells of different sizes are tipped by performers in order to produce gurgling sounds. This does not always work, however. Cage speaks of a »contingency« as there is no causal relationship between cause (action) and effect (sound). [Source]
Inspired by the 1936 Post Office information film Night Mail by Benjamin Britten and W. H. Auden, the music is composed by Graham Fitkin (winner of British Composer Award 2009) with text by Glyn Maxwell (shortlisted for Forward, Whitbread and T. S. Eliot prizes). Track to Track will be premiered by LCO musicians with the Graham Fitkin Band at Cadogan Hall on March 22nd 2012. [Source]