Monday 12 February 2024

Magnum Opus: Britten Sinfonia's composer development scheme showcases work from 2023 composers David John Roche, Daniel Soley and Crystalla Serghiou

Magnum Opus Composers 2023: David John Roche, Daniel Soley and Crystalla Serghiou
Magnum Opus Composers 2023: David John Roche, Daniel Soley and Crystalla Serghiou

Norwich-based music writer, Tony Cooper, reports on Britten Sinfonia’s enterprising Magnum Opus development programme for composers.

Each year three composers ready to take a significant leap forward in their blossoming careers are selected for Britten Sinfonia’s headline development programme entitled Magnum Opus made possible by the generous support of the PRS Foundation Talent Development Partner Fund. Applications are submitted in response to an open call viewed anonymously by the scheme’s programme directors.  

The featured composers comprise David John Roche, Crystalla Serghiou and Daniel Soley who have been embedded with the orchestra over the past year. They wrote wind quintets which were premièred as part of a successful and well-received Britten Sinfonia tour in April last year.  

Recently, they have composed further substantial chamber concertos to be premièred at the finale event at St Giles’ Cripplegate (close to the Barbican Centre) on Saturday 2nd March (3.00pm, see Barbican website) by Britten Sinfonia conducted by William Cole and a soloist of their choosing. 

Furthermore, the composers have had the opportunity of working closely with the players and their soloist in workshops and rehearsals as well as receiving feedback and mentoring from the 2023 programme directors, Dani Howard and Raymond Yiu. 

David John Roche describes his music as ‘direct, determined and loud’ and ‘strongly influenced by heavy metal, lush orchestral music and his working-class Welsh background’, His concerto for electric guitar is written for the ultra-versatile star soloist, Sean Shibe, who’s renowned for his collaborations with composers. 

Crystalla Serghiou is a composer, singer, songwriter, pianist and conductor who works across contemporary classical music, jazz, pop, opera and traditional Greek-Cypriot music. Her new work, The Stepford Wife, is written for the powerful and expressive jazz singer, Emma Smith. 

Daniel Soley is a composer, experimental sound artist and producer whose eclectic work has ranged from orchestral scores to music and sound design for public installations in the Middle East. His new accordion concerto has been written for Ryan Corbett, the first accordionist to be selected to be a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Artist. 

And the three composers selected for Magnum Opus 2024 comprise Alex Groves, Eden Lonsdale and Anibal Vidal, who’ll write new works for septet to be premièred London’s Milton Court (opposite Barbican Centre) on Tuesday 9 April (6.00pm, see Barbican website) while also choosing chamber pieces for their works to be paired with. They’ll be supported by programme directors, Dani Howard and Michael Zev Gordon, working towards writing new chamber concertos to be premièred at the 2024 autumn showcase. 

Alex Groves is an Ivor Novello-nominated composer and curator working across contemporary classical and electronic music. His work often blends classical instruments and live processing to create uncanny sound worlds which blur the line between acoustic and electronic. 

Eden Lonsdale (a British/German composer) focuses his music on exploring the various ways that movement and stasis can co-exist, as well as the interconnectedness of harmony, timbre and melody. Often using very limited materials, his dense and immersive sound-worlds attempt to draw the ear into the smallest details and hope to inspire the listener’s self-guided exploration into the music’s manifold layers. 

Anibal Vidal is a Chilean composer based in London whose multifaceted career spans concert music, music for media, and multidisciplinary projects. He draws on his South American heritage and diverse musical influences to produce immersive works characterized by gradual processes of gestural repetition and timbral experimentation.  

An orchestra of exceptional quality and vision, the Britten Sinfonia could well be described as a different kind of orchestra, too, as its not defined by the traditional figurehead of a principal conductor but by the dynamic and democratic meeting of the orchestra’s outstanding team of gifted and individual players as well as a broad range of collaborators ranging from Steve Reich, Thomas Adès and Alison Balsom to Pagrav Dance Company, Father John Misty and Anoushka Shankar. 

Deeply rooted in the East of England, the Britten Sinfonia is the only professional orchestra working throughout the vast region of East Anglia while it also enjoys a national and international reputation as one of today’s finest ensembles. Renowned for its adventurous programming and stunningly high-quality performances and equally for its record of commissioning new music, the Britten Sinfonia quietly gets on with their day-to-day work nurturing new composing talent while inspiring schoolchildren, hospital patients and communities across the East of England to appreciate and engage in music-making. 

An associate ensemble at London’s Barbican Centre, the Britten Sinfonia is also resident orchestra at Saffron Hall and has enjoyed a long and fruitful residency in Norwich. The orchestra also performs regularly at London’s Wigmore Hall and appears at distinguished UK festivals such as Aldeburgh, Norfolk & Norwich and Brighton not forgetting, of course, the revered BBC Proms. Wave that flag! 

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