Highlights of Anna Clyne’s residency with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London this season include the UK premieres of Color Field, inspired by a Mark Rothko painting, and her clarinet quintet Strange Loops.
Anna Clyne’s 2022-23 residency with the Philharmonia in London was launched in flamboyant fashion in September with Masquerade, providing the curtain raiser at the orchestra’s opening concert. The performance conducted by Santtu-Matias Rouvali was described by The Times as “a swirling, surreal orchestral evocation of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in their gloriously disreputable heyday”.
Two Clyne UK premieres are threaded through her autumn Philharmonia concerts at the Royal Festival Hall. Rouvali is back on the rostrum for the first European performance of her orchestral work Color Field on 3 November. The 15-minute score was composed in 2020 and premiered by the Baltimore Symphony under Marin Alsop last year, following a pandemic delay.
The central inspiration for Color Field was Clyne’s meeting in New York City with the pioneering leader of Women in Philanthropy, Melaine Sabelhaus, and discovering her love for the colour orange, particularly Hermès Orange. This in turn led Clyne to Mark Rothko’s Orange, Red, Yellow (1961) which, as the composer explains, is “a powerful example of the artist’s Color Field paintings, featuring red and yellow framing a massive swash of vibrant orange that seems to vibrate off the canvas.”
“While I explored creating music that evokes colors, I thought about synaesthesia, a perceptual phenomenon in which a person hears sound, pitch and tonal centers and then sees specific colors, and vice versa. In the case of composer Scriabin, he associated specific pitches with specific colors, which I have adopted as tonal centers for the three movements of this piece: Yellow = D, Red = C, Orange = G.”
“Each movement of Color Field weaves in elements of the life of Melanie Sabelhaus, for whom music has always been in the house. Yellow evokes a hazy warmth and incorporates a traditional Serbian melody, first heard as a very slow bass line, and then revealed in the middle of the movement in the strings and winds. In Red, the fires blaze with bold percussive patterns and lilting lines. In Orange, the music becomes still and breathes, and then escalates once more, incorporating elements of Yellow and Red to create Orange – the signature color of Melanie Sabelhaus.”
> Visit the Philharmonia website
The London performance of Color Field on 3 November is preceded by a 6 pm concert at the Royal Festival Hall, curated by Anna Clyne in the Philharmonia’s Music of Today series. The programme features music by Jessie Montgomery, Caroline Shaw and Paola Prestini plus the UK premiere of Clyne’s Strange Loops for clarinet and string quartet, co-commissioned by the Philharmonia.
> Visit the Music of Today concert page
The orchestra gives two performances of Clyne’s This Midnight Hour under the baton of Joana Carneiro, at the Bedford Corn Exchange on 30 November and the Royal Festival Hall on 1 December. This exploration of nocturnal imagery has become one of Clyne’s most travelled works with over 120 performances from its 2015 premiere through to the end of the current season. Carneiro conducts further concerts including This Midnight Hour with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra in Glasgow and Perth on 27 and 28 October.
Other London highlights for Anna Clyne this autumn include the UK premiere of her cello concerto DANCE featuring Inbal Segev as soloist on 18 November. The concert at Cecil Sharp House in Camden is one of over 20 performances of the work given by the American-Israeli cellist this season, including a ten-concert global tour also featuring Taki Alsop Conducting Fellowship alumnae. The success of Clyne’s concerto in concert is mirrored by the popularity of the opening movement on Spotify playlists with close to 8 million streams to date.
The New Year brings the world premiere of Anna Clyne’s new concerto Weathered, written for Swedish clarinettist Martin Fröst. Jaap van Zweden conducts the first performance with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra on 5 January in Amsterdam. Further performances follow with the Philharmonia in London, the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, the Antwerp Symphony Orchestra and at the Verbier Festival.
> Further information on Work: Color Field
Photo: Christina Kernohan
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