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…

Garden of earthly delights: Ampere; new release of the music of Dai Fujikura

The latest CD from the Minabel label offers an enchanting sonic odyssey through the musical landscapes of Dai Fujikura

ampere_coverThe forthcoming disc from Osaka-born, London-resident, Dai Fujikura, sees the composer’s constant hunger for musical expression take form in a range of compositions, from large-scale orchestral works to chamber music and pieces for solo instruments. Yet, as always, each piece offers the composer’s own distinct perspective on the forces for whom the piece is written, in his exploration of new expressive possibilities and extended techniques

The opening work is a case in point. Ampere is not traditional concerto, in which soloist is pitted against the orchestra; rather, the piano is the catalyst, evoking responses from the orchestra that reflect the various hues and textures the pianist draws from the instrument, extrapolated into a series of orchestral colours. Ultimately, though, the piano falls victim to the sympathetic responses it evinces from the orchestra, and amidst a breathless sea of fluttering pizzicato strings, is transformed from sonorous grand piano into a toy piano, whose exotic utterances are now limited in colour and scope; no longer able to provoke a range of replies from the orchestra, the toy piano falls silent, and the piece comes to a conclusion.

The shimmering orchestral textures of Stream State see the surface of the orchestra scintillating with shifting layers of material, pitching differing orchestral textures against one another in a constant state of change. Far from the homogenous, blended sound of a traditional symphony orchestra, the sound here is always in flux. A more sedate second section attempts to impose some semblance of unity across different families; low, restless brass, pizzicato strings, brittle percussion. The rest of the orchestra rises in revolt; sustained woodwind chords try to impart a centre, soon shouted down by a defiant tutti chord. Wisps of material dart elusively through the strings, to be answered by clattering percussion. Rasping brass drives a fomenting orchestra to a frenzy, before a strangely calm conclusion.

Balancing the larger-scale works are three pieces for solo instruments. The balletic grace of Fluid Calligraphy is painted in ethereal arabesques in an exploration of the full range of harmonics on a solo violin. In Poyopoyo, the solo French horn almost attains the state of being able to speak, in the fluttering, muted survey of its articulatory possibilities. For anyone familiar with the talking trombone of the teacher in those Charlie Brown cartoons from the seventies, this is a more refined, introspective version – the schoolteacher caught alone, in a reflective soliloquy. There’s mischief here too, though, with laughter often bubbling to the surface. The natural state of the horn’s soundworld is refashioned, like plasticine, handled like something ‘soft and squidgy’ (as the title translates) and moulded into something much more articulate. The solo instrument really is speaking its own language, if only we could just catch the words – the piece is beautifully executed with superb control in this recording by Nobuaki Fukukawa.  Perla is a slow, often sensuous exploration of the expressive power of the bass recorder, employing flutter-tonguing and overblowing techniques as the instrument lurks lonely beneath the moonlight.

The gentle, diaphanous opening of the final piece on the disc, my butterflies, evokes an iridescent heat-haze; the texture gradually opens out, embracing muted brass chords, building to the first sustained vertical sonorities and a moment of release. Fujikura demonstrates (as elsewhere on this disc) his extraordinary ear for texture, for instrumentation that works to enhance as well as to draw out distinct differences between families of instruments.  An oboe and bassoon melody moves in slow, measured steps, underpinned by a sustained chord in the distance, leading to a sedate and serenely noble conclusion, reminiscent of Stravinsky. Of all the pieces on the disc, this is perhaps the most lyrical, the most expressive, permeated throughout by a hushed expectation – a reflection in part, maybe, of the initial inspiration for the work, Fujikura’s wife in the early stages of pregnancy.

Dai Fujikura

Dai Fujikura

Coming away from the disc, you are left with a sense that your ears have been opened to the experience of sound anew; Fujikura’s music, in its tightly-controlled expressive means allied with a wonderfully articulate textural language, opens the doors to sound in a manner which makes you listen with a renewed inquisitive sense. For all its surface-level industry and constant exploration of textural possibilities afforded by the instrument(s) for which the composer is writing, there emerges an overall unity of vision, a singular concept from Fujikura’s music; that of being enchanted by sound, of being enthralled by the sonic landscapes through which the music moves.

Fujikura has previously written for the Okeanos Ensemble; his Okeanos Breeze, which was commissioned by the group, embraces traditional Japanese instruments as part of the ensemble. The works on this new disc show his handling of instrumental forces continuing to broaden and mature, in his continuing investigation into new aural possibilities

Ampere is released on the Minabel label next month.