Sir Harrison Birtwistle: Nenia: The Death of Orpheus

Sir Harrison Birtwistle Nenia: The Death of Orpheus
Nenia: The Death of Orpheus

Sir Harrison Birtwistle: Nenia: The Death of Orpheus

Year of composition:
Scored for:
for soprano, 3 bass clarinets, crotales and piano
Sir Harrison Birtwistle
Text author:
Peter Zinovieff
Instrumentation details:
3 bass cl (1. +cl(Bb)), crotales, pno (+prep.pno)
Commissioned by Jane Manning
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Nenia: The Death of Orpheus

Work introduction

Nenia was the young composer’s first confrontation with the myth of Orpheus, followed later on by a number of other works in various generic groups (including his opera The Mask of Orpheus). Nenia is no traditional jeremiad; the new way of handling the voice was still very much in the air, four years after Berio’s Sequenza III. This lament is more hysterical (with its huge leaps in the soprano part) than dazed; only near the end does the singing break off, the soprano reciting words on the hero’s death. Birtwistle’s imaginative use of the unorthodox ensemble is remarkable.

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World première

Maida Vale Studios, London (GB)
Main soloists:
Jane Manning and Matrix (Alan Hacker, Ian Mitchell, Francis Chrisrou, Paul Crossley and Tristan Fry)

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