Showing posts with label Lontano. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lontano. Show all posts

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Birthday concert for a very special composer tonight

Nicola LeFanu.
Photo: Michael Lynch

Please come along to The Warehouse, Theed Street SE1, tonight to hear Lontano and Odaline de la Martinez give a special concert devoted to the music of Nicola LeFanu, celebrating her 70th birthday. In a 'Meet the Composer' session I'll be the lucky person interviewing her before the performance (6.30pm). It's a major retrospective with a selection of six works from 1974 to 2017. Congratulations, too, to Lontano for planning this more than timely celebration of such a special and marvellous composer. (As it happens, talking to composers is one of my favourite things in the whole world, so this is going to be a treat and a half.)

Book at Eventbrite, here.

Nicola LeFanu was born in England in 1947, the daughter of Irish parents: her father William LeFanu was from an Irish literary family, and her mother was the composer Elizabeth Maconchy. LeFanu studied at Oxford, RCM and, as a Harkness Fellow, at Harvard. She has Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Durham, Aberdeen, and Open University, is an Honorary Fellow of St Hilda’s College Oxford, and is FRCM and FTCL.

She has composed around one hundred works which have been played and broadcast all over the world; her music is published by Novello and by Peters Edition Ltd. She has been commissioned by the BBC, by festivals in UK and beyond, and by leading orchestras, ensembles and soloists. Many works are available on CD, including music for strings (Naxos), Horn Concerto (NMC) and Saxophone Concerto (NEOS).

She has a particular affinity for vocal music and has composed eight operas: Dawnpath (New Opera Company, London, 1977), The Story of Mary O’Neill, a radio opera, libretto Sally McInerney, (BBC, 1987), The Green Children, a children’s opera, libretto Kevin Crossley-Holland, (Kings Lynn Festival, 1990), Blood Wedding, libretto Deborah Levy (WPT, London 1992), The Wildman, libretto Crossley-Holland, (Aldeburgh Festival, 1995), Light Passing, libretto John Edmonds, (BBC/NCEM, York, 2004), Dream Hunter, libretto John Fuller (Lontano, Wales 2011, London 2012) and Tokaido Road, a Journey after Hiroshige, libretto Nancy Gaffield, (Okeanos, Cheltenham Festival, July 2014.)

She is active in many aspects of the musical profession, as composer, teacher, director and as a member of various public boards and new music organisations. From 1994–2008 she was Professor of Music at the University of York, where many gifted composers came to study with her. Previously she taught composition at Kings' College London; in the 1970s, she directed Morley College Music Theatre.

In 2015 she was awarded the Elgar bursary, which carries a commission from the Royal Philharmonic Society. In 2017 she was BBC Radio 3 ‘Composer of the Week’.

Recent premieres include works for chamber ensemble, with or without voice, for solo instrumentalists, and for orchestra. Threnody was premiered in Dublin in 2015 (RTE NSO) and The Crimson Bird, the RPS commission, at the Barbican, London, in 2017. BBCSO/Ilan Volkov with Rachel Nicholls, soprano soloist.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Mountain/water - where east and west meet

Many years ago, when I was a student, there was one (1) composer in the music faculty who happened to be a woman. She was preparing her PhD at the time. She was a live wire - a ferociously intelligent Argentinian who had left her home country after the 1976 coup - and a rare, shining example to us toiling undergraduates. Her name was Silvina Milstein. I'm delighted to support her forthcoming premiere at King's College London on Tuesday with this guest post from Silvina herself,  now a professor at King's, in which she reflects on the great value to today's composers of consistent, long-term artistic engagement with their work from conductors and performers - in this case, Odaline de la Martinez and her ensemble Lontano. Please note, tickets for the concert are FREE, but should be booked in advance at the links below. JD

Silvina Milstein
Silvina Milstein was born in Buenos Aires in 1956. After the Argentinian military coup of 1976 she emigrated to Britain. At Glasgow University her composition teachers were Judith Weir and Lyell Cresswell, and at Cambridge University she studied with Alexander Goehr.  In the late eighties she held fellowships at Jesus College and King's College (Cambridge), and is currently a professor of music at King's College London.

In addition to composing Silvina has a distinguished career as a teacher and scholar.  Her book Arnold Schoenberg: notes, sets, forms was published by Cambridge University Press.

She has received commissions from leading ensembles and the BBC.  A selection of her chamber works has been recorded by Lontano conducted by Odaline de la Martinez and issued by lorelt.  Several of her most recent pieces for large chamber ensemble --tigres azules (London Sinfonietta and Ensemble Modern), surrounded by distance (London Sinfonietta) and de oro y sombra (Birmingham Contemporary Music Group)-- were premiered under Oliver Knussen.

Here you can view an illustrated lecture that she gave in 2012 about her compositional processes, which includes excerpts of her music.

BCMG and Oliver Knudsen rehearse her de oro y sombra

Silvina Milstein writes:

On 18 October the ensemble Lontano conducted by Odaline de la Martinez will premiere my Shan Shui (mountain/water) for nine instruments alongside works by George Benjamin, Ed Nesbit and Rob Keeley, at the Great Hall, King's College London, WC2R 2LS, as part of the Arts & Humanities Festival 2017.

It has been said that the shan shui style of Chinese painting goes against the common definition of what a painting is: it refutes colour, light and shadow and personal brush work. 

"Shan shui painting is not an open window for the viewer's eye, it is an object for the viewer's mind, it is more like a vehicle of philosophy."

"The Western mind appears to work in straight lines; the Oriental, in wonderful curves and circles," wrote Lafcadio Hearn, the late 19th-century writer of Greek and Irish descent, strongly anchored in American literature, and fascinated by French and Eastern cultures, who married a samurai's daughter, took Japanese citizenship, and became a Buddhist practitioner. 

Paradoxically in the 1960s, Lafcadio Hearn's retelling of several Japanese ghost-stories became the source of Masaki Koyabashi's film Kwaidan, featuring a sound-track by Toru Takemitsu, whose music brings together traditional Japanese and contemporary European art music. Treading on the footsteps of these intercultural encounters, diachronic "shadowings", and transpositions between art forms, my Shan Shui plays around with notions of time and imagery from films by Kenji Mizoguchi and Kaneto Shindo.

Shan Shui is part of a long string of works that I have written for Lontano over the past three decades: Of lavender light and cristales y susurros have been included in my first LORELT CD, while the septet ochre, umber and burnt sienna, and the two trios with harp (and your sound lingered on in lion and rocks and a thousand golden bells in the breeze), as well as Shan Shui will be part of a new double-CD to be released in early 2018. 

This type of long-term artistic engagement and substantial support is at the core of what makes Odaline de la Martinez’s commitment to the music of women composers so uniquely precious. By presenting several of my pieces together in concerts and CD, it effectively addresses a crucial difficulty often encountered by composers in the current concert-programming climate.

Not only has this approach allowed me to undertake ambitious and often rather bold projects (such as a work scored for two double basses and harp), but more importantly has offered me platforms for the presentation of my work as groups of pieces with common compositional concerns, like renderings of a mountain from many sides, under different lights, and at different scales. On this occasion, Dominic Saunders will perform the recently revised version of my Piano Phantasy after Mozart K475 written in 1992.

My pre-concert talk will introduce Shan Shui placing it in the context of my earlier compositions and its sources of inspiration in contemplative Chinese landscapes and Japanese cinematography (room SWB21 in the Music Department, King’s College London, Strand, WC2R 2LS, at 16:45). All attendees are invited to a drink-reception before the concert. 

Entrance to the talk, reception, and concert is free, but tickets should be booked from the following site:

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Music for our days

A spot of musical escapism after a very dark night.

Tonight I'm chairing a panel discussion with five American composers who happen to be women, before the concert in Lontano's Festival of American Music at the Warehouse, Waterloo. The composers are Hannah Lash, Julia Howell, Elena Ruehr, Barbara Jazwinski and Laura Kaminsky, so it should be a fascinating chat. But it's going to be an even more interesting evening than I'd anticipated. We'd hoped to be celebrating the accession of the US's first-ever female president,

Tonight, too, the LPO pertinently plays Dvorák's "New World" Symphony at the RFH. Robin Ticciati conducts. (But listen out for the dark side of that piece. It's there.) In the first half, Anne-Sophie Mutter is playing the Beethoven Violin Concerto - on her Strad, which used to belong to Jelly d'Arányi and was probably the instrument on which the latter gave the UK premiere of the Schumann Violin Concerto.

Tomorrow at the Barbican, the LSO is playing the Schumann itself, with Renaud Capuçon the soloist. An insane piece for an insane world? Or Schumann's last stand before the crash, unfairly suppressed for 80 years until its bizarre rediscovery? It's not for nothing that that story became Ghost Variations, though I didn't anticipate that its 1930s setting would ring quite as many bells as it does. I'm looking forward to hearing Renaud play it.

At some point I'll try and produce some cogent thinking about the scuppering of the new London concert hall, but today is not the day.

Actually I am lost for words and I don't want to depress anyone further, but I have no verbal slivers of hope, inspiration or humour to offer, so here's some Schumann instead.