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7th London Festival of American Music

February 24th – March 2nd at The Warehouse, Theed Street, London SE1


Odaline de la Martinex heads up the latest outing of this fascinating festival launched in 2006. The festival explores and celebrates the work of major American composers and reflects the variety of style that is so characteristic of contemporary American music today.

With a wide selection of well-known and successful composers, the festival reflects new music in America today, as well as diversity of gender, generation and geography. Some of the composers Ruth Crawford Seeger, John Harbison, Florence Price, George Crumb, Samuel Barber and Aaron Copland are Deans of American Music. Others though well known in the States, are emerging voices outside their native North America, and were selected specifically to treat UK audiences to a broader spectrum of the best of American music today. Featured are world premieres by Barbara Jazwinski, James Lee III, Elena Ruehr, and Sarah Rikus as well as UK Premieres to include Augusta Read Thomas, Fred Lerdahl, Jorge Sosa and many more. Many of the composers featured will be attending the festival. Most of the pieces presented will be UK or European premieres.

All Great Art is Praise

The King of the Golden River

A special celebration of the bi-centenary of the birth of John Ruskin sees dual performances in London and California of Rodgers’ The King of the Golden River. The performance in London is part of a scripted evening told about and by John Ruskin, featuring actor, Michael Palin. Rodgers has also provided settings for three new songs to Ruskin texts and other incidental music for tenor and string quartet.

Click here for more information.

Nominations for British Composer Awards announced

British Composer AwardsNew works by 37 of Britain’s contemporary composers have been nominated for the 2018 British Composer Awards.

The nominations fall into 12 categories including orchestral, jazz, sonic art, chamber ensemble, stage works and wind or brass band.

Many of this year’s works give a voice to marginalised or disadvantaged groups in society, such as Solace by Conall Gleeson, written for an orchestra in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. Others take inspiration from other art forms, such as Dee Isaacs’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which applies the themes of Coleridge’s poem to the plight of refugees today.

A record-breaking year for entries, 2018 saw over 560 submissions. ‘As ever it’s hugely exciting and inspiring to see the fresh passion represented by our first-time nominees,’ said Crispin Hunt, chair at BASCA. ‘Congratulations to everyone nominated.’

The winners in each category will be announced at a ceremony at the British Museum on 4 December 2018. Presented BBC Radio 3’s Andrew McGregor and Sara Mohr-Pietsch, the ceremony will include a performance in memory of nominated composer Oliver Knussen.

Find out more

BBC launches Sounds App

BBC Sounds

BBC Sounds has been officially launched at an event at London’s Tate Modern, with the Director-General promising that the new offering would support a ‘whole new generation of talent’.

The corporation’s new app and online platform launches with 20 new podcasts, 40 playlists curated by artists and the BBC’s music experts, and more than 100 hours of classic BBC comedy and drama from the archives.

It also provides live and on demand access to BBC radio stations (replacing BBC iPlayer Radio), and for the first time also showcases a back-catalogue of non-BBC podcasts including award-winning series such as Griefcast and Beef and Dairy Network.

Find out more about the BBC Sounds App

BBC to make classical archive available

BBC Symphony Orchestra
The BBC is set to announce plans to make its back catalogue of classical music available to the public.

Director general Tony Hall is expected to say the move will mean historic and recent performances are “returned to the public”.

They will be available on services such as BBC iPlayer and the BBC Sounds app.

Lord Hall is expected to reveal the plans at the launch of the BBC’s year-long classical music project, Our Classical Century on Thursday evening.

The project will look back at 100 years of classical music in the UK and will be covered online and on BBC Four, BBC Two and Radio 3.

The corporation has one of the biggest classical music archives in the world, with recordings from the BBC Proms, BBC orchestras and choirs along with BBC Young Musician and BBC Introducing.

Lord Hall is expected to say: “In time, you will also be able to find them by using voice activation technology to make your own journey through classical music.

“Whilst the way we consume and share content is changing rapidly, music’s ability to bring us together has stayed the same, and classical music’s role in that should not be underestimated.”

Labyrinths at the Purcell Room

Monday 19th May, 2018, saw the world premiere of Labyrinths by Sarah Rodgers, for 8 hands at 2 pianos, performed by Piano40 at the Purcell Room on London’s Southbank.

Three other contemporary works were in the programme: Botanic Gardens, by Edward McGuire; Tronow by Richard Nye; and Piano Forty, by Cecilia McDowall.

Piano40 at the Purcell Room

Rodgers' Renaissance

Credit : Sheila Burnett

A new work for ensemble, Piano40, has been commissioned by them for their Purcell Room concert in May.

A commission from Orchestras Live brings Rodgers together with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment for a new work which is part of the Norfolk Paston Papers celebrations.

Later in the year, Sarah will be editing and contributing to a collection of new compositions for publishers, Stainer&Bell. To find out more, visit Sarah Rodgers’ website

Messiah 4 Grenfell


Singers and players are invited to participate in a performance of Handel’s The Messiah in aid of those affected by the fire at Grenfell Tower.

The performance will take place at 7pm in the Holy Trinity Church, Prince Consort Road, South Kensington on 8 October.

Organised by David Meacock and the A40 Choir, the event will follow the same format as the Messiah 4 Haiti and Messiah 4 Philippines performances.

Players and singers will rehearse at 2.30pm before performing that evening. Further information may be found here

Tickets cost £15 for singers, £10 for audience members, and £5 for students under 21. Amateur players (grade 8+) are asked to make a voluntary donation of £15, but music college and professional players can participate for free.


New CD Release: prize-winning song-setting, Acacia Tree

Lights Out: English Art-SongThe long and vibrant tradition of art-song in England has seen many great composers from Finzi to Vaughan Williams, Gurney to Moeran and Warlock and countless more, supported for many years now by the English Poetry and Song Society.

This is the fourth of four albums of live EPSS concert performances made by Dunelm for private use and now on general release due to demand; it contains works by major composers and several talented members of the EPSS, some of whom have recently become much better known and successful, including Jeffrey Whitton, Laura Shur and Sarah Rodgers. Based around music by Ivor Gurney, E.J. Moeran and Sulyen Caradon, the recital is wide ranging and a fine demonstration of English art-song.

These EPSS recordings were made on portable recording equipment and with less than ideal microphone placement and are not to our usual modern standard. However they contain fine performances and many very unfamiliar and exquisite songs, which will delight any lover of late-Romantic vocal music.

Lights Out: English Art-Song is released by Divine Art (DDV 24165) on 18th August.

Trainee violin-makers face deportation

Chinese students attending the Newark School of Violin-making are facing deportation, not due to Brexit (come on – they’re from China) but due to the College failing aspects of its Ofsted and losing the necessary status to be able to sponsor overseas students. This puts the students, who are part-way through their courses, in a financial and career-path mess. They came in good faith and now through no fault of their own are put in a position of having to leave the country. Hopefully, someone with some influence can intervene and protect not only the careers of these young people but also the reputation of the college and the UK.


Octava divides opinion

The Octava app trialled by the RPO just a couple of months ago is already dividing opinion. Are you ready to sacrifice the sanctity of the concert hall to allow new members of the audience to ‘get into classical’ by receiving information about the performance as it happens, using this US-developed app? The jury may be out but the RPO has said it received positive feedback. Not to be outdone, the Philharmonia has used virtual reality headsets to expand the experience of listening to Sibelius 5th symphony.


BBC Singers appoint Sofi Jeannin

Sofie Jeannin
The BBC Singers has appointed Swedish choral director and mezzo-soprano Sofi Jeannin as its new chief conductor.

Jeannin, who is currently musical director of la Maîtraise de Radio France and the French Radio Chorus, will be the first female conductor of the BBC Singers. She will take over in July 2018 from current chief conductor David Hill, who has held the post for ten years.

The only full-time professional chamber choir in the UK, the BBC Singers have a broad repertoire, performing music from across the centuries.

‘The BBC Singers represent a performance level which is any conductor’s dream,’ says Jeannin. ‘They are a truly marvellous group and working with them is a joyful experience. The values of excellence, of a rich and varied season, of the closeness with the audiences in the halls and through our radio broadcasts are missions that one cannot treat lightly.’

As chief conductor designate, Jeannin will lead the BBC Singers in a performance at this summer’s BBC Proms, as well as in performances around the UK.

‘We’re thrilled to welcome Sofi to our BBC Orchestras and Choirs family,’ says Alan Davey, controller of BBC Radio 3. ‘I look forward to watching the Singers continue to grow and thrive under Sofi’s direction.’

Plaudits for Thomas Adès day at Wigmore

Thomas Ades
Thomas Ades day at London’s Wigmore took place on Sunday 26th March.

A lunchtime concert including Adès’s Piano Quintet and his second string quartet, The Four Quarters, together with piano duets by Walton and Lutosławski, was followed by an evening concert, featuring the Calder Quartet and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, with Adès himself and Nicolas Hodges sharing pianistic duties.

There were just two of Adès’s own works. The bright, brash Concerto Conciso, which he wrote for BCMG in 1997, packs three movements into just eight minutes of brittle polyrhythms, while his first quartet, Arcadiana, now more than 20 years old, still serves as a perfect demonstration of how he can weave a whole tapestry of musical and extra-musical allusions into his works yet create something that is utterly distinctive and entirely his own.

Other works performe were by Kurtág, Janáček and Gerald Barry.

Horace Trubridge is new leader of MU

Horace Trubridge MUCongratulations from Impulse to Horace Trubridge who has been confirmed as the next General Secretary of the Musicians’ Union (MU).

The results of the election were announced at the end of March by the independent scrutineer. The ballot of members was held between 6 and 27 March 2017 and there were two candidates: MU Executive Committee member Kathy Dyson and MU Assistant General Secretary Horace Trubridge.

Horace Trubridge says:

“I am absolutely delighted that the members have chosen me to take the Union forward following John Smith’s retirement in July. Having spent the last few months travelling around the country and talking to the members, I have a very clear vision of where the Union should be heading – building on John’s fantastic work of the last fifteen years – and I am eager to get started. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Executive Committee and all the members of our Union for their tremendous support, I look forward to justifying that support and meeting the difficult challenges that lay ahead.”

First ever Scottish Awards for new music

Picture by Iain Smart

The first ever Scottish Awards for New Music have been awarded at a ceremony in Glasgow. The new awards, backed by Creative Scotland, aim to celebrate and champion Scottish composers, musicians, sound artists and ensembles which are creating innovative and experimental work.

‘These are the [people] who are driving forward one of Scotland’s most exciting and experimental music sectors,’ said Alan Morrison, head of music at Creative Scotland.

Over 180 artists were nominated for the awards by fellow artists, audience members and the general public, and the nominees ranged from amateur musicians to household names.

The award winners are:

Red Note Ensemble
Help Musicians UK Award for New Music Performers of the Year, presented by Claire Geveaux

Ailie Robertson, composer and curator
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Award for Achievement in New Music, presented by Janet Archer, chief executive of Creative Scotland

Holiday Inn Award for Sound Art / Electroacoustic Work, presented by Oliver Searle, chair of New Music Scotland

Robert Irvine for Songs and Lullabies, Delphian Records
EVM Award for Recorded New Work, presented by Alan Morrison, head of music at Creative Scotland

Drake Music Scotland – Wagner’s School of Cool
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Award for Community/Education Project, presented by Gordon McPherson, head of composition at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

David Fennessy for Panopticon
Dorico Award for Small/medium Scale Work sponsored by Steinberg, presented by Richard Llewelyn

Helen Grime for Two Eardley Pictures: Catterline in Winter and Snow
Large Scale Work sponsored by PRS for Music, presented by Stuart Fleming and Harriet Wybor

Rodgers guest conducts Dido and Aeneas for UEA Opera Society

The fledgling UEA Opera Society has launched with two performances of Pucells’ Dido and Aeneas at The Garage theatre in Norwich. Conducted by Sarah Rodgers, the two performances on 10th and 11th March were both sold out. Students from the University took the vocal and choral roles with members of the University Orchestra providing the string accompaniment. Professional input came from the conducter and the harpsichord and cello continuo, as well as from producer and vocal coach, Hannah Francis and designer Lisa Ott.

Tabakova for BBC Concert Orchestra

Dobrinka Tabikova

The BBC Concert Orchestra has announced the appointment of Dobrinka Tabakova as its new Composer in Residence.

Continuing the BBC Concert Orchestra’s commitment to new music, Dobrinka takes the reins from Associate Composer Guy Barker, who over four years with the orchestra premiered works including The Lanterne Of Light at the BBC Proms with soloist Alison Balsom in 2015 and his Soho Symphony, based on London’s Soho region, as part of the 2014 EFG London Jazz Festival.

Tabakova’s new role will see her work with the orchestra for an initial period of three years, with her first orchestral commission scheduled for the orchestra’s 18-19 season, to be premiered at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, where the BBC Concert Orchestra is Associate Orchestra.

As well as exploring Tabakova’s existing compositions, the role will include three orchestral commissions from BBC Radio 3 for the BBC Concert Orchestra. Tabakova will also participate in the artistic planning and direction of the orchestra’s work as a whole, including concerts, recordings and learning projects.

Tavener Memorial Sculpture Unveiled

Tavener SculptureIt was an immense pleasure and no small privilege to attend the unveiling ceremony of the newly commissioned sculpture to commemorate the life and work of Sir John Tavener. On Friday 11th November, a packed Winchester Cathedral listened to extracts from the Veil of the Temple, sung by Patricia Rozario. Sir John’s Evensong settings were performed by the Cathedral Choir under Andy Lumsden and the congregation participated in chants and responses throughout the service.
A smaller gathering continued after the service to the act of dedication including prayers led by Metropolitan Kalistos at the Federov icons before the sculpture itself was unveiled. Created by Angela Conner, the sculpture is fashioned in glass and represents the fluidity of art and life. If you want to find it, walk past the chancel on the south side and look to the wall on your right.
Lady Tavener gave a moving dedication as the sculpture was unveiled. Several composers were present including Judith Weir, Master of the Queen’s Music and John Rutter, an alumnus with Tavener of Highgate School and a lifelong friend.
The evening concluded with a sublime performance by Andrew Watts and Fretwork of Tavener’s Nipson, commissioned by the BBC in 1998.
The evening celebrations had been preceded by a Symposium on Sir John’s music at Winchester University, led by ISM member Professor June Boyce-Tillman.
As a line from the Veil of the Temple says, ‘You struck fire in my heart and I have been consumed!’ Such is the power of music.

Spectrum 5 published by ABRSM

The Original SpectrumThe fifth volume in the series of contemporary piano works, collated by Thalia Myers and published by the (ABRSM) Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, is now available.

The first complete performance of Spectrum 5 will be given in the Britten Theatre at the Royal College of Music on Saturday 5th November at 5.30 p.m. The concert will be hosted by the RCM Junior Department and performers of these fifteen concert miniatures will be JD student pianists, present and past. Tickets are required but they are free and they will be available from the RCM Box Office 020 7591 4314 from 8th October.

The composers of the specially commissioned pieces in Spectrum 5 are Victoria Borisova-Ollas, Philip Cashian, Chen Yi, Michael Finnissy, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Graham Fitkin, Helen Grime, Gavin Higgins, Gabriel Jackson, Harold Meltzer, Poul Ruders, Timothy Salter, Howard Skempton, Karen Tanaka and Huw Watkins. The level of difficulty ranges very approximately from ABRSM Grade 6 to Diploma. The aim of this collection, as with every volume in the Spectrum series, has been to commission some of the world’s most distinguished composers to write pieces of modest length and difficulty, whilst preserving the essential characteristics of their compositional style.

Thalia MyersA recording of all 15 new works, performed by Thalia Myers will be released early in November ((USK 1233DL).
Buy USK recordings at tutti.co.uk

Einojuhani Rautavaara has died at the age of 87

Einojuhani Rautavaara

Einojuhani Rautavaara

The death has been announced of Finnish composer, Einojuhani Rautavaara, probably the most important of Finland’s composers after Sibelius.

Rautavaara studied at the Sibelius Academy under Aare Merikanto before winning a scholarship to Juilliard. He studied with Vincent Persichetti, Roger Sessions and Aaron Copland. He was himself, composition professor at the Sibelius Academy for more than 40 years.

He was a prolific composer, and wrote eight symphonies, nine operas, 12 instrumental (and one choral) concertos, plus a wide variety of orchestral, chamber, instrumental, choral and vocal works.

He is perhaps best known for his seventh symphony, Angel of Light, composed in 1994.

His most recent work, Orpheus singt, a setting of Rainer Maria Rilke for a cappella chorus premiered on 25 June 2016 at the Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele, performed by the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart, conducted by Marcus Creed.

Here the same choir sings Rautavaara’s Canticum mariae virginis and Canción de nuestro tiempo, together with works by Grieg, Sibelius and Saariaho.

BBC Composer of the Week: Bernard Stevens – July 4th – 8th:

The broadcast times are:
Monday July 4th – 12 noon & again at 6.30 pm (repeat)
Tuesday July 5th – 12 noon & again at 6.15 pm (repeat)
Wednesday July 6th – 12 noon only – no repeat
Thursday July 7th – 12 noon & again at 6.30 pm (repeat)
Friday July 8th – 12 noon only – no repeat

See also:

Each programme will also be available (after the live broadcast) online via i-player. Just go to the Radio 3 “Composer of the Week ” section of the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006tnxf/episodes/player

This is also available from outside the UK, for example in Germany, where the Bernard Stevens Trust is now located. It is also possible to listen to BBC R3 live from outside the UK on the “Tune-In Radio” an app available for all major mobile phone & tablet platforms  – if you have any difficulties with listening live on the BBC website.

The works will be performed as follows, in the order listed below:

Monday July 4th: Liberation Symphony 2nd movt, Aria for Solo Piano, Kyrie & Gloria from the Mass for Double Choir, Violin Concerto

Tuesday July 5th: Piano Trio, Liberation Symphony (complete), Suite from the music for the film “The Mark of Cain”, Theme & Variations for String Quartet

Wednesday July 6th: Fantasia on the Irish Ho-Hoane for 2 Pianos, Cello Concerto, Andante from String Quartet no. 2, Dance Suite for Orchestra

Thursday July 7th: Agnus Dei from the Mass for Double Choir, 2nd Symphony, Horn Trio, “Ballad no 2” for Solo Piano

Friday July 8th: “The Birds Know This” from “The True Dark” Song Cycle, Opening section of the the opera “The Shadow of the Glen”, “Nocturne on a Note-Row by Ronald Stevenson” for Solo Piano, Piano Concerto

BBC Radio 3 Listening Figures on the Up

bbc radio 3
The most recent Radio Join Audience Research quarterly report has shown that BBC Radio 3’s audience has grown to its highest figure in three years. The classical radio station reached an audience of 2.12 million, up from 2.05 last quarter.

‘BBC Radio 3 is in rude health,’ said director of BBC radio Helen Boaden, ‘The unique blend of remarkable music and culture programming is something you’d only find on Radio 3.’

Boaden also paid tribute to BBC Radio 3 controller Alan Davey, as this report marks the end of his first full year in the job. ‘It’s been an honour to lead the BBC Radio 3 family’ said Davey, ‘I’m really proud of our constantly evolving offer… Moving into our 70th anniversary year, I’m delighted that Radio 3 continues to play such a special role in the daily lives of our listeners.’

Other BBC Radio stations to report strong audience growth included BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 6, BBC Radio 5Live and BBC Local Radio. Audiences for BBC Radio 4 and the Asian Network fell slightly.

Read the full report from RAJAR

BBC Composer of the Week: Bernard Stevens - July 4th - 8th

The Bernard Stevens Trust is delighted to announce that in commemoration of his 100th anniversary, Bernard Stevens will be featured in the BBC Radio 3 Series “Composer of the Week” every day from July 4th to 8th. Watch this space for programme times.

New Grainger Release for Penelope Thwaites

Penelope Thwaitesphoto: Clive Barda

Forthcoming recording projects for Penelope Thwaites include the release of a 4-CD box set of Grainger’s complete music for two pianos four hands. This includes the re-issue of her much admired recordings with John Lavender Volumes 1-3 and a brand new Volume 4 in which Penelope is joined by the outstanding Australian pianist Timothy Young. The set is due for release in October/November 2016 on the Heritage label.

Read the review of Grainger Box Set in The Australian, Dec 2016

Christopher Gunning CD Release

Gunning CDChristopher Gunning writes:

“A new CD has been released on the Discovery label. It is something of a departure for me, in that most of my CDs have been orchestral, whereas this features the fabulous Diana Brekalo playing my Sonata for Pianoforte and the excellent London Piano Trio performing my Piano trio.

I wrote my Sonata especially for Diana after hearing her in concertos with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; I wanted to write something which features her extraordinary technique and also her beautifully quiet playing. The Sonata has five movements – the first, third and fifth are dramatic or even forceful, whereas the second and fourth are rather soft and gentle.

My Piano Trio is quite different; the four movements are varied and drawn from personal experiences from my own life. The first movement is subtitled “Au Jardin de Maurice,” which is a reference to Ravel’s garden at Montford l’Aumery. The second is called “Walking with Alan Bush;” it’s fast and the title refers to the composer Alan Bush, who was my very first composition teacher. The third is “Faded Photographs, Poignant Memories,” in which I rake through old family photos, remembering some of the people and events illustrated. The last movement is “A Family Argument” and contrasts jazzy music with something rather Ukrainian.”

Bernard Stevens - The Bramble Briar

Performed by David Russell in honour of the 100th anniversary of the birth of composer Bernard Stevens (1916-1983).
Written in 1970, the piece is based upon the English folk song “The Bramble Briar”.
Sheet Music published by Editioni Musicali Berben, Ancona-Milano.

UK Music Measuring Music Report 2015

In its annual report on the health and earning power of music generated from the UK and performed and sold in Britain and around the world, campaigning and lobbying group, UK Music, has announced that the UK music industry was worth over £4bn to UK GDP in 2014.

‘Measuring Music 2015’ looks at all aspects of the industry – creation, performance, publishing, recording, broadcast, sales and exports – for all genres.

For the classical sector, the report highlights a violinist from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.

“Alex Gascoine has been a second violinist with the BBC Scottish symphony orchestra, which provides around seventy five performances annually for Radio 3. It also performs about forty concerts a year all over Scotland as well as internationally. Concerts during the past year have been in locations as far afield as China and Orkney, as well as performances at the BBC Proms, one of the best known musical events in the world. Their performances were also broadcast to hundreds of millions of people via the Public Service Network in India last year. A great example of how the five BBC Orchestras help add to the soft power footprint of UK culture across the globe.”

Click here for the full report Measuring Music 2015

New Chandos Recording for Robert Woolley

Robert Woolley’s latest recording for Chandos is Volume 3 of Sweelinck’s Complete Keyboard Music. The performances are on Virginals made by Johannes Grouwels who is recorded as Master of the Guild of St Luke, Antwerp, in 1579, in the collection of the Brussels Museum of Musical Instruments. Follow the link to Robert’s website for more information

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