symphony

Proms 2013: Philip Glass – Symphony No. 10 (UK Première)

Posted on by Simon Cummings in Premières, Proms | 17 Comments

In previous years, some readers will have noticed that there have always been a few Proms premières about which i haven’t written. Jazz-related works, being somewhat removed from my zone of interest & expertise, are ignored, along with re-discovered works from many decades ago (e.g. Britten’s Elegy for strings, receiving its first performance at the end of this month), contemporary cashings-in of earlier music (e.g. Anthony Payne’s latest ‘effort’, a rehash of Vaughan Williams songs being performed next month) & works by cartoon characters (e.g. the concerto ‘by’ Wallace, heard last year). Beyond these omissions, i’ve never overlooked a work for reasons of quality, as some of my less praiseworthy articles will bear witness. But never have i been more tempted to do this than when confronted by Philip Glass‘s latest contribution to the repertoire, his Symphony No. 10, given its UK première at Wednesday’s late night Prom by the Aurora Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Collon. Read more

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In Memoriam: Hans Werner Henze – Symphony No. 5

Posted on by Simon Cummings in 20th Century, Commemorations | 3 Comments

Yesterday brought the very sad news that the composer Hans Werner Henze has died. It’s not for me to attempt an obituary—i only know a little of Henze’s life, & have only really scratched the surface of his considerable output—but by way of a small tribute, here’s a performance of his Symphony No. 5. Henze’s ten symphonies vary greatly in their scope, scale & instrumentation, & the Fifth is one of his most concise, lasting around 15 minutes. Henze composed the symphony in 1962, a year after he had relocated to the Marino region of Italy (Henze left Germany for good in the early 1950s, revolted by its politics & homophobia). The nearby city of Rome was his primary inspiration; Henze described the symphony as dealing with “dramatic portrayals of sensual conflicts and joys prompted by the sensuous happiness of 20th century Rome, its people, its countryside and surroundings, and even by its somewhat harder dialect in comparison to that of Naples where I previously lived”. Read more

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Proms 2012: Per Nørgård – Symphony No. 7 (UK Première)

Posted on by Simon Cummings in Premières, Proms | Leave a comment

Despite the understandable reluctance on the part of contemporary composers to use the word, there’s nothing quite like seeing ‘symphony’ on a concert programme to get one’s blood & expectations pumping. When the composer in question is Per Nørgård, as it was last week at the Proms, then the excitement factor ramps up even further. Composed over a period of three years, Nørgård’s Seventh Symphony was given its UK première by the BBC Philharmonic, conducted by John Storgårds; it’s a decade since the first UK performance of Nørgård’s last symphony (also at the Proms), & considering the aftermath—audiences & critics very sharply divided in response to what is an admittedly hard-going work—one can imagine a fair few people came to this concert with more than usually clenched teeth. Read more

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