New music coming to this year’s Proms

New music coming to this year’s Proms

The announcement of the new Proms season always heralds a pot pourri of contemporary music, about which we’re always excited here at Tokaido Road Towers; here’s a brief overview of new music that will be coming to this year’s season.

One of the fathers of American Minimalism whose music appears at this year’s season (the other being Steve Reich),  Prom 63 includes John Adams’ blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Short Ride In A Fast Machine, together with the UK premiere of the new Saxophone Concerto, from the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop.

Sally Beamish‘s Violin Concerto is being given its London premiere (does that term really mean anything, I ask myself…) in Prom 20 together with music by Gurney and Walton.

proms_logoBerio’s sonic collage of Western music,  Sinfonia is part of Prom 26 from Semyon Bychkov, which also includes Shostakovich Symphony no.4.

The music of Birtwistle features several times in celebration of his eightieth year – Night’s Blackbird in Prom 18 together with Mahler 5, Endless Parade is on the programme at Prom Saturday  Matinee 2 (plus Maxwell Davies), Sonance Severance 200 Prom 33 with the National Youth Orchestra  in an exciting programme that includes Lutoslawski’s Concerto for Orchestra and the 1911 version of Petrushka. The Proms Saturday Matinee no. 4 is a profile of Birtwistle with Exaudi and BCMG under Knussen, and Prom 72 focuses on English music, with his Exody alongside Walton and Vaughan Williams.

Chinese composer Qigang Chen features in Prom 2 as the China Philharmonic makes its Proms debut with Chen’s Trumpet Concerto, Joie eternelle.

Unsuk Chin’s Šu for sheng and orchestra appears in in Prom 55.

Also celebrating his eightieth year is Sir Peter Maxwell Davies: his Sinfonia is a part of Prom Saturday Matinee 2; the suite from Act 2 of the ballet Caroline Mathilde plays in Prom 35;  Symphony 5 partners Sibelius 2nd Symphony in Prom 38; Max is given his own Composer Portrait in Proms Saturday Matinee 3 by the London Sinfonietta and Sian Edwards which  includes his scintillating Mirror of Whitening Light, whilst Prom 70 is a Birthday Concert.

Jonathan Dove‘s Gaia appears in Prom 15  in a programme of Mozart and a complete performance of Ravel’s shimmering Daphnis et Chloé.

Francesconi dances with the Devil as his Duende – The The Dark Notes comes to Prom 28 alongside Stravinsky’s monumental Oedipus Rex.

Helen Grime‘s Near Midnight receives its London premiere at Prom 31.

Gavin Higgins’ Velocity, is a new commission to launch the Last Night.

The premiere of Simon Holt’s Flute Concerto, Morpheus Wakes flavours Prom 14 together with Ravel’s titanic evocation of orchestral destruction, La Valse, and Duruflé’s colourful Requiem. There’s also the scintillating surfaces of David Horne‘s Daedalus in Flight in its London premiere in Prom 10.

Prom 40 presents two new works, Benedict Mason‘s Meld  along with Dobrinka Tabanova’s Spinning a Yarn from the Aurora Orchestra.

Roxanna Panufnik is present in her Three Paths to Peace, in Prom 4 with Gergiev.

Gabriel Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto, Prom 16 is one of many works this year commemorating First World War.

Minimalist fanatics (amongst which I count myself) will be appeased by the Late Prom 37, featuring the music of Steve Reich in a chamber version of his Desert Music, and It’s Gonna Rain.

The late Sir John Tavener is commemorated in three concerts; his Gnosis at Prom 7 , Ikon of Light and Requiem Fragments in Prom 25 from the Tallis Scholars and the Heath Quartet , whilst his enduringly-popular Song for Athene will add an emotional touch to the Last Night.

Pianist wünderkind Benjamin Grosvenor will give the premiere of Judith Weir‘s Day Break Shadows Flee in Proms Chamber Music 7.

A two-day residency by the Cleveland Orchestra celebrates the music of Jörg Widmann, his Flute en suite at Prom 68, and Teufel Amor in Prom 69.

The second Chinese composer coming to this year’s Proms, Zhou Long’s  piano concerto, Postures, comes to Prom 61.

Elsewhere, there’s music by Laura Mvala, Dave Brubeck, the Pet Shop Boys and the usual crowd-pleasers from the Classical Canon; looking forward to a very musical summer this year…

Five Questions: photographer Wynn White

Wynn White is an American fine art black and white photographer and printer living in Chiba, Japan. A selection of his beautiful images are projected alongside the historic Hiroshige woodblock prints in Tokaido Road. A particularly ‘hands on’ photographer,  Wynn does all of his own gelatin-silver processing and printing, getting involved in every step of the process. He also uses various historic techniques of printing, including salt, cyanotype, Vandyke, argyrotype and platinum/palladium.


Pier, New Year’s Morning (Wynn White)

Pier, New Year’s Morning (Wynn White)


See his work at:

Forthcoming exhibitions: ART Photography ASIA, exhibition in Izu-Kogen May 1 to May 18 2014

A selection of Wynn’s Japanese photographs will form an exhibition at the Parabola Theatre in Cheltenham to coincide with the Tokaido Road premiere on 6th July 2014. As with all his work, the prints displayed are all handmade by Wynn in his darkroom.


Nihonbashi (Wynn White)

Nihonbashi (Wynn White)


What first attracted you to the idea of the Tokaido Road project?

 I first learned of the Tokaido Road project through Nancy Gaffield. We share a common love of Japan and both have been influenced greatly by the Japanese culture. After reading Nancy’s book I became excited at the prospect of my imagery being incorporated in the project.

Tell us about your involvement in Tokaido Road.

 My involvement in Tokaido Road has been solely on the visual side. I love it when images and music are effectively brought together and I’m doing my best to help make that happen in this project.

 What excites you about contemporary arts?

 To me all forms of art are an expression of life. Never before have artists had so many means of expressing their passion. Personally, it has been a chance to connect the line between the oldest photographic technologies with the most modern.

Purification Water at Shinshoji (Wynn White)

Purification Water at Shinshoji (Wynn White)

What has the project taught you / shown you / made you aware of?

 This project has brought me back to Japan. Although I have lived in Japan for over thirty years, much of my recent work has been done outside of this country. It has brought me back home, so to speak. In thinking about the time that Ando Hiroshige’s wonderful ukyoe prints of Tokaido Gojusan Tsugi were made I looked back to photography at that time in the 1830’s. Ironically, Fox Talbot had just made his first photographic prints in that era. This inspired me to use the same techniques of old to produce my photographic prints for the accompanying exhibition. Since salt is the basis in Talbot’s printing technique I decided why not use the water of Tokyo Bay as the salting solution for my prints and I am pleased with the results.

What relevance, for you, does the project have to today’s cultural environment?

This Tokaido Road project is a cross cultural celebration of the arts. It combines all of the arts with few language barriers. It can be enjoyed by young and old from all countries of the world. For me personally, Tokaido Road gives me the opportunity to share some of the cultural gains that I have made here in Japan with the rest of the world.


Sand Mound - Ginkakuji, Kyoto (Wynn White)

Sand Mound – Ginkakuji, Kyoto (Wynn White)

The earliest of days: Nancy Gaffield reflects on the first play-through

Nancy Gaffield

Nancy Gaffield

On 28th March, I attended the first Tokaido Road production meeting at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. It was my first opportunity to meet the team. Of course I had already met Caroline Clegg, Director, and Nicola LeFanu, Composer, and Kate Romano, the driving force behind it all–but now I met Dominic Wheeler, Conductor, Stuart Calder, Producer, and the six players that form Okeanos Ensemble.

The day began with a production meeting chaired by David Leigh-Pemberton, Production Manager, and a discussion of the performance and rehearsal dates, as well as other details related to the production. I felt very privileged to be a part of this, indeed, to think that my little book of poems was the whole reason for this hugely-accomplished group of people to assemble here at all!

After the meeting, the musicians began to arrive and set up for the playthrough. There was a real buzz of excitement. Nicola said, “It is the earliest of days.” The conductor moved through the score one scene at a time, with the musicians stopping to ask for clarification, sometimes, directing questions to the composer. A pianist played the vocal line and read the words from the libretto. They would then play through the scene until they were happy with it, and the scene was recorded. To hear the music emerging from the pages of the score was just breath-taking.

For those three hours, I was in a space that was not of this world. As I listened to the music and the vocal line, even without the characters on stage, I thought how well the melody matches the personality of each character. And I thought I must be the luckiest poet in the world. To see it take shape before my eyes was pure magic! Tokaido Road truly belongs to each of us involved in this, and that feels just as it should.

Nancy Gaffield

Sho Time: Jinny Shaw reviews Max de Wardener’s latest commission

Jinny Shaw, oboist with Okeanos Ensemble, the instrumental ensemble for Tokaido Road, reviews Untitled – Max de Wardener’s work for sho, organ & percussion, written for Okeanos’ Robin Thompson.

Music to the Max...composer Max de Wardener

Music to the Max…composer Max de Wardener

Composer Max de Wardener is well-known for his versatility; composing for albums, TV and film as well as contemporary classical music. His collaborations include a BFI commission with Ed Finnis for a score to Sergei Eisenstein’s silent film The General Line (1929) responding to a series of composing instructions left by the director.

His latest work, premiered at the South Bank Centre on 22nd March, broadcast live on BBC Radio 3’s ‘Hear & Now’ programme, featured a pre-recorded soundtrack of the Royal Festival Hall organ, incorporated in a live score for percussion and sho.

His neighbour, artist Rebecca Salter, has lived and studied in Japan, and leaving in 1985, was given a sho and koto by her Sponsor, Zen monk Otsuka san. With Rebecca’s assistance, Otsuka Einosuke has since donated his collection of fine Japanese instruments and music to the British Museum.

In February Max and Rebecca met with the sho player and Okinawan music specialist, Robin Thompson. Rebecca adds:

‘Max already knew the sho (there was a concert at King’s Place I think) so seeing the instrument I own sparked his interest and through Richard Blake (a flautist and shakuhachi player) we went to see Robin. At that point he suddenly got the commission from the BBC so decided to try to use organ and sho and ask Robin to play.’

Robin Thompson. Image credit: Greg Trezise

Robin Thompson. Image credit: Greg Trezise

Both composer and artist hold the music of Toru Takemitsu in high esteem and sense the parallel narrative of the ancient and classical harmony in Japanese Gagaku or Court music to a contemporary sound world. Robin Thompson initially evaluated the sho in Rebecca’s possession, leading to, in Max’s words, a ‘brilliant Antiques Roadshow moment’ for the apparent age and rarity of the instrument. It was subsequently returned to Japan, but in fact, turned out to be far less old and valuable when considered by specialists in Tokyo.The classical harmonies of the sho sound surprisingly ‘modern’, and in Max’s composition its clustered whole tones are replicated in the organ’s pre-recorded score. The lines between the two sustaining instruments are initially blurred and fused, the listener guessing as to which sound is live and which recorded. Their texture of pipes and reeds, underpinned by percussion, gradually becomes less diffuse as the instruments’ harmonic identities emerge.

This beautiful work can be seen to embrace the Japanese spatial concept of ‘Ma’ – suggesting the designation of ‘interval’ as a sense of place; in the dual intensity of listening and being, but not necessarily confined to any one experience. Perhaps it is best suggested as lines of force or sound flowing around the listener, as if they are set within the landscape of a Zen rock garden; gently aware in the definitive space, yet simultaneously receiving in imagination a unique horizon. Certainly the importance of ‘interval’ has immense significance in the music.

The harmony of an ancient musical instrument and its discovery has clearly formed a bond between composer, musician and artist, and it is anticipated that their collaboration will continue.

To view Japanese instruments and music generously donated to the British Museum in 1990 by Otsuka Einosuke(大塚榮之助)click here.

Jinny Shaw

Jinny Shaw

Jinny Shaw