Friday 11 January 2013

A Scream and an Outrage

New York composer Nico Muhly is curating a weekend of events, new music explorations, at the Barbican with six sessions spread over three days (10 - 12 May 2013), plus extra events on the Barbican Free Stage. The concerts include the premieres (world and UK) of a number of Muhly's pieces, plus David Lang, Paola Prestini, Steve Reich and a myriad of other works including the first complete performance of Philip Glass's Etudes for Piano.

Things kick off on Friday 10 May with the BBC Symphony Orchestra premiering works by Nico Muhly and the New York-based American composer David Lang (composer of the Little Match Girl Passion), plus the European premiere of Paola Prestini's Oceanic Verses, a multimedia opera which will be given in a new version for the Barbican. It brings together choruses, soloists, and instruments in a soundscape which explores the lives of four characters caught in an ancient landscape continually transformed by waves of immigration. A meditation on fading civilizations; a film projected throughout the performance offers a contemporary perspective on the struggles within the opera through the prism of the character’s emotional states. The work premiered in 2012 and the Barbican performance will be the premiere of the orchestrated version. (See the composer's website for more details and samples)

Saturday afternoon 11 May sees LSO St Lukes playing host to Bang on a Can All Stars, Trio Medieval, Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto and tenor Allan Clayton. Bang on a Can All Stars and Trio Medieval will perform Julia Wolfe's Steel Hammer,  a work they premiered in Florida in 2009. Steel Hammer is inspired by American composer Julia Wolfe’s love for the legends and music of Appalachia. Culling from both the music and oral traditions of the region, the piece focuses on the legend of John Henry, immortalized for his race against 'the machine'. Pekka Kuusisto and Allan Clayton will give the UK premiere Nico Muhly's Three Songs setting surrealist love-poems by Andre Breton.

Saturday evening back to the Barbican Hall, the Britten Sinfonia and Andre de Ridder give the European premiere of Icelandic composer Daniel Bjarnason's Over Light Earth. The work was written for the Los Angeles Philharmoni and is a reaction to (or conversation with) paintings Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock that Bjarnason saw at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. The title comes from a Rothko painting, No. 9 (Dark Over Light Earth). Also in the programme is St. Carolyn by the Sea by Bryce Dessner for two electric guitars and ensemble. A double electric guitar concerto inspired by Jack Kerouac, the work was premiered in 2011 by the American Composer's Orchestra with Bryce Dessner and his twin brother Aaron playing guitars.

A thread running through all the Sunday concerts is performances of the Philip Glass's 20 Etudes for Piano, some of which will be performed at each of the concerts. 

Sunday morning sees LSO St Lukes devoted to The Sixteen, conductor Harry Christophers with music by Arvo Part, Tallis and Nico Muhly. Events continue at LSO St. Lukes in the afternoon with the Calder Quartet and SO Percussion in music by Steve Reich and Joby Talbot.

Finally in the evening in the Barbican Hall, Nico Muhly and Philip Glass perform the last set of Glass's Etudes for Piano. Various artists including Muhly, Shara Worden, and Pekka Kuusisto present David Lang's death speaks, a work created from 32 extracts of Schubert songs, each of which features Death speaking to the living. (There is an interesting blog post about the work by the composer on the Carnegie Hall website).

Further information about the concerts from the Barbican website.

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