Nicolas Hodges presents a recording of Birtwistle’s major works from the 1990s. Among them is the first recording of the revised version of Antiphonies, performed by pianist Nicolas Hodges and the WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln under Stefan Asbury.
Bálint Varga on Antiphonies:
This work is not a “piano concerto” in the way the term is usually understood; it is a struggle between the solo instrument – perhaps a struggle for survival – and the menacing, often demonic powers of the orchestra.
The winds and percussion dominate the sonic character while the strings, except for one short melodic fragment, remain in the background. Slow forte sections unleash the full orchestra, between moments of Impressionistic calm, where the piano part seems like an improvisation, a fantasia - until the struggle resumes …
Find out more on the website of Nicolas Hodges.
Harrison Birtwistle’s 9 Settings of Celan will be performed tonight by Katrien Baerts and the Klangforum Wien (cond. Bas Wiegers) in the frame of the “Wort | Ton | Gestalt: Harrison Birtwistle and Paul Celan” symposium at the Essl Museum in Klosterneuburg.
Download a pdf of the full programme of the symposium.
The King’s College Cambridge celebrates Harrison Birtwistle’s 80th year with the three-day festival ‘Secret Theatres: the music of Harrison Birtwistle’. Celebrations start with an interview between Harrison Birtwistle and Richard Causten on 6 November.
Among the works performed during the event will be the UE-works Secret Theatre, Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum, Silbury Air and Birtwistle’s arrangements of Guillaume de Machaut’s Hoquetus David and Ut Heremita Solus, played by acknowledged performers such as the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and the Arditti Quartet.
Find an interview with composer and lecturer Richard Causton, who is running the three-day festival on classical-music.com.
It’s been 20 years since Harrison Birtwistle’s 2-act opera The Second Mrs Kong was performed for the very first time on 24 October 1994 in Glyndebourne.
When he reviewed the opera’s production of 2004 (which was also the latest production of the work), Andrew Clements of the Guardian described the work as “one of the great operatic achievements of our time.” (Andrew Clements, The Guardian, 11 November 2004).
Earlier, The Second Mrs Kong had received similar praise in Germany when a translated version was staged in 1996:
“eine kongeniale Vermittlung zwischen Tradition und Moderne […] Ein verspielter Geniestreich” (Reinhard J. Brembeck, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 28.02.1996)
“Die zweite Mrs. Kong ist eine Perle unter den neuen Opern – hörfreundlich, amüsant, gefühlig” (Christina Osterwald, Die Rheinpfalz, 12.03.1996)
Happy Birthday Mrs Kong!
There’s also great news for another opera by Birtwistle: director Leonard Prinsloo’s and conductor Walter Kobéra’s Neue Oper Wien production of Punch and Judy has won the Arte Audience Award and the Award for Best Production. Find out more on the website of the Neue Oper Wien.
Watch the production of Punch and Judy on arte:
The“tragical comedy or comical tragedy in 1 act” is performed at the Armel Opera Festival at the Erkel Theatre in Budapest.
View the full score of Punch and Judy.
The stream starts in a little less than 6 hours from now, at 19:00 CET/CEST, and will be available until 14 April 2015.
Harrison Birtwistle: Punch and Judy
A tragical comedy or comical tragedy in 1 act | 110'
14.10.2014, Erkel Theatre, Budapest; Jennifer Yoon, Pretty Polly (witch); Manuela Leonhartsberger, Judy (fortune-teller); Richard Rittelmann, Punch; Lorin Wey, Lawyer; Till von Orlowsky, Choregos (Jack Ketch); Johannes Schwendinger, Doctor; Evamaria Mayer, Dancer; Amadeus ensemble-wien, cond. Walter Kobéra
But the music’s real triumph lies in its unfaltering sense of movement. […] From start to finish the work treads like some implacable giant, and because its two main climaxes emerge from the bowels of a unitary experience they generate a violence and despair that transcend rhetoric. The word is on the tip of my pen and I can withhold it no longer. There are elements of greatness in this work. (Peter Heyworth, The Observer, 04.06.1972)
Based on the homonymous allegorical painting by the sixteenth-century artist Pieter Bruegel, the 30-minute piece was first performed in 1972. This recording is from a performance by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Pierre Boulez.
The “Proms Saturday Matinee 4: A Portrait of Sir Harrison Birtwistle” starts at 4pm CET/CEST (i.e. Berlin, Paris, Vienna), and will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
On the programme: Verses for Ensembles, Dinah and Nick's Love Song and Meridian:
Harrison Birtwistle: Verses for Ensembles
for 3 instrumental ensembles | 28'
Harrison Birtwistle: Dinah and Nick's Love Song
for 3 melody instruments and harp | 5'
Harrison Birtwistle: Meridian
for mezzo-soprano, 2 female choirs and instruments | 27'
06.09.2014, Cadogan Hall; Christine Rice, ms; Exaudi; Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, cond. Oliver Knussen
The strength of Birtwistle’s music, and his way of showing time passing at different speeds are for me very striking, much more striking than any other English composer of his generation. (Pierre Boulez on Harrison Birtwistle)
Celebrations for Harrison Birtwistle’s 80th already took place earlier this year with the Barbican Centre’s Birtwistle at 80 season, a production of Punch and Judy at the Neue Oper Wien, the publication of Fiona Maddocks’ Harrison Birtwistle: Wild Tracks – A Conversation Diary With Fiona Maddocks, the rerelease of a recording of Gawain by NMC Recordings and a filmed portrait of the composer.
Nevertheless, you shouldn’t miss out on Ö1’s radio portrait on the composer by Rainer Elstner, which will be broadcast today, on the day of his birthday, at 23:03. Listen live.
Happy Birthday Harrison Birtwistle!
Ivan Hewett of The Telegraph has written an article on the differences and similarities of Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, two old friends and rivals.
Read the full article on The Telegraph.
Today at 17:00pm CET/CEST BBC Radio 4 broadcasts an episode that focuses on the famous engraving, the composer has been interviewed for the programme. Listen live.
Melencolia I will be performed this Friday at the Barbican Centre in London, Baldur Bronnimann conducts the Britten Sinfonia.
Sir Harrison Birtwistle: Melencolia I
for clarinet, harp and 2 string orchestras |24'
30.05.2014, Barbican Centre, London; Britten Sinfonia, Baldur Bronnimann
The Birmingham Contemporary Music Group has released the concert programme for their birthday concert for Harrison Birtwistle. The concert takes place on Saturday, 10 May at the CBSO Centre.
Find the full programme here.
In his 80th year, Harrison Birtwistle agreed to let his godson, the wildlife filmmaker Tom Mustill, spend time with him in his home, his beautiful garden and the shed in which he composes. The resulting filmed portrait is a touching study of a composer's solitary, strange and satisfying life as well as being an invaluable record of Harrison Birtwistle's working methods.
In part one, radio host Ben Eshmade introduces listeners to the Barbican’s Birtwistle at 80 celebration and speaks to Harrison Birtwistle’s peers and collaborators about the composer’s life and work, as well as the great man himself.
You can listen to the Podcast here and on the Barbican’s SoundCloud page: