Friday, 10 January 2020

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' Last Postcard from Sanday helps launch the Royal Academy of Music's ambitious 200 Pieces project

Royal Academy of Music's Angela Burgess Recital Room
Royal Academy of Music's Angela Burgess Recital Hall
The Royal Academy of Music will be 200 in 2022, the world's second oldest conservatoire (the Paris Conservatoire is older). This week the Academy launched an ambitious new project, 200 pieces which will culminate in 2022. To celebrate the Bicentenary the Academy has asked 200 composers to write 200 new works for solo instrument or voice, the idea being that the project will celebrate the here and now.

Starting this year all the works will be premiered at the Academy by students and will be recorded by the in-house Audio-Visual team. From Summer 2020, the recordings will be available on the Academy's new website as will a selection of the scores, thus creating an on-line resource which will climax in 2022 with all 200 new pieces.

23 works will be premiered this season, with music by Diana Burrell, Luke Bedford, Philip Cashian, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, David Sawer, Robert Saxton and Mark Anthony Turnage. Many are RAM Alumni, students, staff and honorands but the range of composers involved is very broad, not just confined to the UK, and some will be collaborating directly with the instrumentalists playing the piece.

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies with Jane Glover and the cast of his opera Kommilitonen! at the Royal Academy of Music in 2011
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies with Jane Glover and the cast of his opera
Kommilitonen! at the Royal Academy of Music in 2011
Alongside this a separate strand of the project will involve a further 200 pieces, created via Open Academy, the Academy's Learning, Participation and Community initiative. This will work with secondary school students in their classrooms to help them create their own compositions, leading to the creation 200 pieces by student composers. The school student composers will work intensively alongside Academy instrumentalists and composers, and a selection of the 200 student pieces will be performed at the Academy during the Bicentenary celebrations.

Open Academy's projects, of which they run up to 50 per year working with around 6000 people, all focus on music-making, the 200 Pieces initiative has been designed to support the student composers in creating their own pieces and thus intended to provide a way into music as an academic subject, reflecting the Academy's concern at the significant drop in the take-up of Arts subjects at GCSE and A-Level.

At the press launch for the project on Wednesday, in Angela Burgess Recital Hall, we were given a preview of the first of the 200 Pieces as violinist Aliayta Foon-Dancoes gave a private performance of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' Last Postcard from Sanday, which Foon-Dancoes will give the first public performance of at the Academy in March.

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