Thursday, 6 December 2012

British Composer Awards

The winners of this year's British Composer awards were announced this week, and the full list can be seen on the British Composer Awards website. Sir Harrison Birtwistle's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra won the orchestral category. The work was premiered by Christian Tetzlaff with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Boston, and received its UK premiere at the Proms with Tetzlaff, this time with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The stage awards went, for the second year running, to a non-operatic work. This time DESH, Jocelyn Pook's evocative score for Akram Khan's astonishing stage work. DESH means homeland in Bangladeshi, and the piece is a journey with Khan discovering his roots. Pook's score mixes in found material from trips to Bangladesh. You can buy a disc of the piece from Pook's website.

The vocal category was won by Colin Matthews' No Man's Land, which was performed at the Proms by the City of London Sinfonia to celebrate their 40th anniversary; the work was commissioned by Richard Hickox three days before he died. Matthews' work has echoes of Britten's War Requiem in that Matthews sets a poetic sequence by Colin Reid in which two skeletons of 1st World War soldiers discuss and reminisce. The piece differs from Britten's in the darkly humorous elements which Matthews and Reid bring in. The soloists at the premiere were Ian Bostridge and Roderick Williams.

Gabriel Jackson's Airplane Cantata won the choral category. The piece is a seven movement work about the pioneering years of aviation with a diversity of texts (eyewitness accounts of Bleriot, Amelia Earhartt, Humbert Wolfe, Hart Crane) set for choir and pianola. A very striking combination. Jackson comments in his introduction to the work that the pianola is capable of playing lots of notes quickly and handling complex multi-layered textures.

Francis Grier's Missa Brevis, premiered by Andrew Carwood and St. Paul's Cathedral Choir, won the liturgical award. A quartet commissioned by the Carnegie Hall for the Emerson Quartet, Thomas Ades's The Four Quarters, won the chamber award. Emily Howard's Mesmerism for Piano and Chamber Orchestra, premiered by the Liverpool Mozart Orchestra, won the Making Music Award.

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