Wednesday, 4 July 2012

BCMG - exciting 25th anniversary season

Ambitious season ahead for the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. More than FOUR world premieres! The BCMG was founded by members of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with a nod from Simon Rattle, so they could focus on playing new music, outside the mainstream repertoire.

It's now recognized as one of the most exciting new music ensembles in the world. British  new music thrives because of the BCMG, so take note!  This year, there'll be world premieres of new works by Alexander Goehr, Richard Baker, Magnus Lindberg, Joanna Lee, David Sawer and Simon Bainbridge. Four of the new works ( Goehr, Baker and two by David Sawer) have been commissioned through BCMG’s remarkable public commissioning scheme, Sound Investment.  

Simon Bainbridge : Garden of Earthly Delights 18th August, BBC Proms Nicholas Collon conducts a 22-player BCMG ensemble, an eight-voice choir (London Sinfonietta Voices), mezzo-soprano Anne-Marie Owens and counter-tenor Andrew Watts. "The work is inspired by Hieronymus Bosch's extraordinary painting of the same name, which presents the viewer with many powerfully evocative and inventive images. Musically, the piece centres on a vocal duo, out of whose sumptuous polyphonic web the character of Hieronymus Bosch is created. Both painter and guide, he leads audiences through a sequence of the most unearthly landscapes ever painted. The music will be in three sections, mirroring the three panels of the painting - Eden, the Garden of Earthly Delights and Hell".

Alexander Goehr : To These Dark Steps. 30th September 2012, CBSO centre, Birmingham "Written for BCMG, the CBSO Youth Chorus and tenor voice (Andrew Staples),To These Dark Steps is based on texts by the poet Gabriel Levin, whose friendship with Goehr grew out of a shared interest in Greek tragedy,cemented later by their involvement in political protest in Israel. The subject of the poems is music itself, and the act of listening to 20th century composers – Webern, Ligeti, Messiaen, – whose compositions frame Goehr’s new work. Oliver Knussen conducts.

Magnus Lindberg : new work,  Aldeburgh Festival June 2013
This is really big as Lindberg is such an important composer and an Aldeburgh regular. "Magnus Lindberg’s new work for BCMG (conducted by Oliver Knussen) has been commissioned by The Royal Philharmonic Society [RPS] and The Britten-Pears Foundation as part of a programme of major co-commissions to mark the RPS’s bicentenary and Britten’s centenary in 2013. The BCMG commission is one of six to leading international composers who will write works for different ensembles - each reflecting the range of Britten’s compositional output".

David Sawer : The Lighthouse Keepers - Cheltenham Music Festival July 2013 "David Sawer’s Rumpelstiltskin, premiered and toured in 2009/10, was one of BCMG’s most successful commissions". (Read about it at the Spitalfields Music Festival here).  "It was always Sawer’s intention that Rumpelstiltskin should become the second half of a double-bill, with another new work, The Lighthouse Keepers, based on a 1905 French play, as a shorter first half. This is a claustrophobic tale of father and son lighthouse-keepers. The son reveals he has been bitten by a dog and is rabid, and begs his father to kill him, just as the light goes out and a ship approaches the rocks…."

This will be a highlight of the Cheltenham Music Festival and the BCMG will go on to tour the double bill in 2014/15. Sawer describes this smaller scale work for two actors and 9 musicians "as having the look of an ‘on-stage radio play’". BCMG, conducted by Martyn Brabbins, premieres this work in Cheltenham alongside Morton Feldman/Samuel Beckett’s radio play Words and Music (which BCMG first toured in 2002)

David Sawer : Rumplestiltskin Suite, April 2013, Wigmore Hall London and CBSO Centre, Birmingham
Sawer has also created an instrumental suite which George Benjamin will conduct alongside his own fairytale-inspired work Into the Little Hill. Benjamin's Into The Little Hill is one of the masterpieces of modern British music, and was a BCMG project. It's so good that, though it's a revival, it's essential for anyone who takes modern music seriously. Read more about it here. I've seen it several times and heartily recommend the CD.

CBSO centre photo: Graham Taylor, Sawer's Rumplestitlskin photo : Keith Pattison

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