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Birtwistle premieres at European summer festivals

(June 2013)

Birtwistle's recent works are highlights of summer music festivals in Aldeburgh, Salzburg, Lucerne and at the BBC Proms in London.

Harrison Birtwistle 's newest work is Songs from the same Earth, receiving its premiere at the Aldeburgh Festival on 13 June. This new song cycle was written for British tenor Mark Padmore and Austrian pianist Till Fellner and sets texts by David Harsent, the poet who has collaborated with Birtwistle on the operas Gawain and The Minotaur. The work was co-commissioned by the Britten-Pears Foundation for the centenary year and by the Royal Philharmonic Society for its bicentenary and receives further performances in the 2013/14 season from the same artists. Till Fellner is also heard on a new disc of Birtwistle vocal and chamber music to be released by ECM later this year.

Birtwistle is featured composer at the Salzburg Festival this summer, providing a prestigious upbeat to his 80th birthday year in 2014. He is represented by 13 works in Salzburg’s contemporary series between 30 July and 22 August and by a new production of his opera Gawain (published by Universal Edition) conducted by Ingo Metzmacher with a cast including John Tomlinson, Christopher Maltman and Laura Aikin.

Concert highlights in Salzburg include the Austrian premiere of Birtwistle’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra with Christian Tetzlaff as soloist, following his performances in Boston, New York, London and Tokyo. Ensemble and chamber performances include 9 Settings of Celan, Bach Measures and the recent Trio for violin, cello and piano (B&H) and Verses for Ensembles and Secret Theatre (UE). Performers include the ORF Radio-Symphonieorchester Wien, Klangforum Wien, oenm, Ensemble Wien-Berlin and the Capuçon brothers.

The UK premiere of The Moth Requiem is at the BBC Proms on 12 August in a Cadogan Hall lunchtime concert with the BBC Singers and Nash Ensemble. At the centre of the new work is The Moth Poem by Robin Blaser, librettist for Birtwistle’s opera The Last Supper, in which the poet traced eerie nighttime sounds in his house to a moth caught under the lid of a piano, touching the strings in its efforts to escape. This poem is combined by Birtwistle with a list of moth names – Scopula Immorata, Depressaria Discipunctella etc. The composer’s interest in moths dates back to his teenager years when he was fascinated by their mysterious existence and understated beauty and his score explores a loss of childhood dreams and the evanescence of life. The work, scored for twelve female singers, three harps and alto flute, has been recorded for the Signum label and receives a further performance at the Wigmore Hall in April 2014.

The Swiss premiere of Birtwistle's recent ensemble work In Broken Images is hosted by the Lucerne Festival on 18 August. The title is taken from poetry by Robert Graves, quoted at the front of the score, which presents two creative states confronting each other: "He is quick, thinking in clear images; I am slow, thinking in broken images... He in his new confusion of his understanding; I in a new understanding of my confusion." The Lucerne performance features the Ensemble intercontemporain with the young British conductor Nicolas Collon.

Plans for the Birtwistle 80th in 2014 include a Barbican celebration with operas and concerts and a new piano concerto set to travel to Munich, London, Porto and Boston in the 2014/15 season.

> Further information on Work: Songs from the same Earth

Photo: Hanya Chlala/ArenaPAL

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