Tim Reynish looks back at three interesting world premieres that took place in the UK during 2013:
Concerto for Cello and Wind Ensemble Bojhangaparitta [World Premiere]
North Cheshire Wind Orchestra
Saturday 2nd November 2013
Conductor Tom Newall
Cello Michelle So
The Studio Theatre, otherwise known as The Black Box, is not the ideal venue for a wind orchestra. Seating just over one hundred, it is better suited for small scale chamber music or intimate opera, its dry acoustic gives no help to an ensemble.
Adam Gorb's Cello Concerto was a commission by a member of the orchestra, Donal Flynn, in memory of his wife. It is scored for solo cello and a chamber wind ensemble, orchestral winds and brass with Timpani and four percussion, but even this light scoring was on occasion too heavy for the very expert soloist, Michelle So. Again, the acoustic did not help her, as the sound was too integrated with the orchestra which of course was sitting on top of the soloist and the audience.
Subtitled Bojhangaparitta, it takes inspiration from the Buddhist chant of that name, and the text of theBojhangaparitta sets out the Seven Factors of Enlightenment, a set of mental states that individuals need to attain in their journey towards Enlightenment or Nirvana. The work lasts about twenty minutes and is in three sections. I need to hear the work again to be able to appreciate it. This is the Adam Gorb of Farewell, not Yiddish Dances, and the result is an intensely argued lyrical piece of great beauty, which needs more performances and a recording as soon as possible.
Corpus Christi (world premiere April 2013)
I have really enjoyed this arresting 8 minute work, and played it several times on my computer. It starts with an arresting motif on horn, repeated and dying away, accompanied by little dance motifs on clarinets and high woodwind; this leads into a modal folk-like melody intoned by clarinet and bassoon, taken up by other woodwind, until interrupted by rowdy episodes on brass, vulgar glissandi in the trombones and a more extended dance theme which perhaps might have been penned by Shostakovitch had he experienced Bird Flu during the Festival of Corpus Christi. Snippets of marches and dances all combine in a joyous riot of thematic interplay, fading into a coda of the opening horn motif and the modal theme
Here's the programme note: A couple of years ago, when the bird flu epidemic was at its height, I managed to contract the bug in Mexico City. After a few disagreeable days, I became bored enough with my hotel to venture onto the streets, pale and far from fully recovered. The festival of Corpus Christi was in full cry, and in my fragile state I was overwhelmed by the animals, fireworks, processions of children dressed as gauchos, the drunks, the lunatics and the hundreds of noisy bands - and above it all the great cathedral bells on Zocalo, the central square. It's an uncharacteristic piece for me - I tend towards the introverted in most of my music - and I think it may be more a portrait of a fevered state of mind than of the fiesta itself!
Hohle Fels (World Premiere)
RNCM WIND ORCHESTRA
Friday 29th November, 7.30
RNCM Concert Hall
Conductor Mark Heron
Soloist Karin de Fleyt
Back in 2008 Clark Rundell conducted a couple of splendid performances of Stockhausen's Lucifer's Dance at the RNCM and Royal Festival Hall, and the piccolo player was Karin de Fleyt, who after much discussion invited Paul Goodey, the then RNCM Head of Wind and Percussion to write a Flute Concerto. The work is not programmatic, but is inspired by the discovery in the Hohler Fels caves in Germany of primitive figurines, together with a bone flute, undoubtedly the earliest known instrument
Excavations in the caves at Hohler Fels in the Swabian Alps date back to 1870, when important palaeolithic finds were made, and from the 1970's a number of carved ivory pieces dating from 35,000 years ago or more were discovered, together with this flute. Inspired by these finds, Paul Goodey, then Head of School of Wind and Percussion, wrote a 35 minute concerto for bass flute, flute and piccolo, Hohler Fels,which makes use of the pitches the 35,000 year old flute would have made, D#, B, C#, a sharp F# and G#. He quotes Professor Nicholas Conard from Tibingen University:
Music could have contributed to the maintenance of larger social networks, and thereby helped facilitate the territorial expansion of modern humans relative to the culturally more conservative isolated Neanderthal population.
I heard an early workshop of Paul Goodey's Flute Concerto, and really did not understand it. Last week, the programme helped, as did the larger acoustic, plus wonderful playing from the soloist, the RNCM wind orchestra and excellent control of the huge forces by Mark Heron. This is a magnificent, challenging work, and will repay study. I am delighted that Mark Heron and his forces recorded the work the following day for inclusion in a forthcoming CD by the soloist.