Mark-Anthony Turnage’s symphonic work, Remembering, reunited the composer with Simon Rattle and attracted critical acclaim at its premiere in London.
January saw the world premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s new orchestral work Remembering: In Memoriam Evan Scofield, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican under the baton of Simon Rattle, celebrating afresh the 30-year-long special relationship between composer and conductor. The half-hour score, hailed as Turnage’s major symphonic statement of recent years, travels on for further performances with the Berlin Philharmonic under Rattle in June and with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in a future season.
"Present and correct are the Turnage trademarks: thick, bluesy riffs, guttural orchestral textures (there are no violins) and jagged harmonies. Delivered with soulful fervour by the LSO, however, the piece also revealed a more romantic, even nostalgic side to Turnage that I’ve not heard. Remembering was written after the death of a family friend (son of the jazz guitarist John Scofield) and its keening woodwind lines, particularly in a haunting second movement, and ghosts of baroque forms leaven the instability with consolation."
"Remembering was about life as well as death. An energetic, pulsating figure, seesawing from double basses to high brass, ignites the piece. Taut rhythmic patterns and swift melodic motifs in each section suddenly break off and shift to fateful, drum-heavy, climactic sounds. The writing is tonal, buoyant, impassioned. A variety of bells, plus piano, celesta and saxophone, shape the orchestration, and offset the dark string colours."
"A symphony in all but name, it launched off with a dancing energetic first movement, too harmonically dark to be pure American pastoral, too rhythmically edgy to ‘swing’, but with hints of both. The piece that followed had a similarly suggestive ambiguity, with protesting laments in the winds alongside a solemn processional.
"By the time we were into the third movement, a darting scherzo which turned into a brass chorale at the mid-point, things had become clear. The music was trying to deny Evan Scofield’s untimely death, by evoking him in life. One felt his energising presence, in those incessant dancing rhythms. At the same time, the chorales and processionals accepted his parting, though under protest. Finally, in the very beautiful closing movement, the piece bade farewell in a spirit of tender acceptance, with solo viola and cello and soprano saxophone entangled in mournful lament."
"It might seem that a tribute to the son of friends who died in his twenties would be primarily mournful, but not so. There is much of Turnage's trademark, gritty urban energy along the way, with jagged rhythms and bluesy snatches of melody... the structural and emotional weight falls on the finale. Solo violin and cello set in motion a deeply thoughtful threnody (think of Turnage's earlier Kai, most moving of contemporary works for cello) and the music blossoms in the eloquence of its heartache."
Recent Turnage works have included the Japanese-themed Hibiki, receiving its UK premiere at the BBC Proms on 14 August, and Martland Memorial given its first performance in April with percussion soloist Colin Currie, the Britten-Pears Orchestra and Marin Alsop.
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Photo: Philip Gatward
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