Harrison Birtwistle (b 1934) [Composer Of The Week]

Episodes

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Broadcast
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01Developing A Voice20191028

This week Donald Macleod meets Sir Harrison Birtwistle, described as “the most forceful and uncompromisingly original composer of his generation”. We hear his major compositions, broadly in chronological order, and reveal the preoccupations and processes behind a singular music imagination.

In this episode, Birtwistle talks about his daily working life, and about his early years at what was then the Royal Manchester College of Music.
He tells Donald about how his problems with formal education didn't stop him becoming a voracious reader. Beginning as a clarinettist, he found himself developing a creative inner life beyond being an instrumentalist, and wanting to create a music that didn’t exist. We also hear about the infamous premiere of his first opera Punch and Judy at Aldeburgh, where much of the audience – including its commissioner Benjamin Britten – walked out at the interval.

Oockooing Bird
Stephen Pruslin, piano

Refrains and Choruses
The Galliard Ensemble

Punch and Judy (The Resolve; Passion Aria; Adding Song)
Stephen Roberts, baritone (Punch)
Jan Degaetani, mezzo-soprano (Judy)
David Wilson-Johnson, baritone (Choregos)
The London Sinfonietta
David Atherton, cond.

Tragoedia
Ensemble InterContemporain
Pierre Boulez, cond.

Producer: Iain Chambers

Donald Macleod meets Sir Harrison Birtwistle to discuss his early compositional life.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

02Harry In America20191029

This week Donald Macleod meets Sir Harrison Birtwistle, described as “the most forceful and uncompromisingly original composer of his generation”. We hear his major compositions, broadly in chronological order, and reveal the preoccupations and processes behind a singular music imagination.

In this episode, Donald Macleod explores Birtwistle’s time in America, after an invitation to teach there by his great friend Morton Feldman. We hear about his collaboration with the electronic music pioneer Peter Zinovieff on the tape piece Chronometer, and about how Breughel’s engraving The Triumph of Time foreshadows the structure of Birtwistle’s massive orchestral work of the same name.

Dinah and Nick’s Love Song
Helen Tunstall, harp
John Harle, saxophone
Simon Haram, saxophone
David Roach, saxophone

Trio
Lisa Batiashvili, violin
Adrian Brendel, cello
Till Fellner, piano

Chronometer
Peter Zinovieff, tape

The Triumph of Time
Philharmonia Orchestra
Elgar Howarth, cond.

Producer: Iain Chambers

Donald Macleod speaks to Sir Harrison Birtwistle about his friendship with Morton Feldman.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

03The Mask Of Birtwistle20191030

This week Donald Macleod meets Sir Harrison Birtwistle, described as “the most forceful and uncompromisingly original composer of his generation”. We hear his major compositions, broadly in chronological order, and reveal the preoccupations and processes behind a singular music imagination.

In this episode, Donald Macleod looks at the powerful inspiration Birtwistle gets from mythology and how it drives so much of his music, not just in his many stage works, but permeating his entire output. They also discuss the music he made whilst living on the Hebridean island of Raasay, and what role landscape plays in his work
Birtwistle has described his music as ‘mechanical pastoral’. This style is heard most clearly in the composer’s favourite piece in his whole output, Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum.

Duets for Storab (Urlar; Stark Pastoral; Crunluath)
The Galliard Ensemble: Kathryn Thomas, Robert Manasse, flutes

Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum
The London Sinfonietta
Elgar Howarth, cond.

The Mask of Orpheus (13th, 14th 15th Arch from Act 2, Scene 2)
Anne-Marie Owens, mezzo-soprano (Persephone)
Jean Rigby, mezzo-soprano (Euridice)
Jon Garrison, tenor (Orpheus)
Omar Ebrahim, baritone (Charon)
BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers
Andrew Davis, Martyn Brabbins, conductors

Silbury Air
The London Sinfonietta
Elgar Howarth, cond.

Producer: Iain Chambers

Donald Macleod explores some of Sir Harrison Birtwistle's most striking music.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

04Imaginary Landscapes20191031

This week Donald Macleod meets Sir Harrison Birtwistle, described as “the most forceful and uncompromisingly original composer of his generation”. We hear his major compositions, broadly in chronological order, and reveal the preoccupations and processes behind a singular music imagination.

In this episode, Birtwistle talks about some of his non-musical inspirations, from the paintings of Paul Klee to the films of Quentin Tarantino or the written words of Lorine Niedecker. He reveals how time, and the instruments for measuring time, have inspired many of his compositions, most notably in the fiendish piano work, Harrison’s Clocks, and he talks about why he enjoyed the furore over Panic, his notorious orchestral work performed at the 1995 Last Night of the Proms.

Nine Settings of Lorine Niedecker (There’s A Better Shine; How The White Gulls; My Life; Sleep’s Dream)
Amy Freston, soprano
Adrian Brendel, cello

Earth Dances
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Péter Eötvös, cond.

Harrison’s Clocks (Clock 2; Clock 5)
Nicolas Hodges, piano

Panic
John Harle, saxophone
Paul Clarvis, drum kit
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Davis, cond.

Producer: Iain Chambers

Donald Macleod explores Sir Harrison Birtwistle's non-musical inspirations.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

05Deep Time20191101

This week Donald Macleod meets Sir Harrison Birtwistle, described as “the most forceful and uncompromisingly original composer of his generation”. We hear his major compositions, broadly in chronological order, and reveal the preoccupations and processes behind a singular music imagination

In this episode, Birtwistle talks to Donald about his compulsion to compose, and how the music of the past continues to inspire and fascinate him. We hear how the Greek myth of the minotaur was an irresistible subject for an opera, and how a lifelong fascination with moths inspired a new work meditating on loss.

Virelai (Sus une fontayne)
London Sinfonietta
David Atherton, cond.

The Minotaur (Part Two)
John Tomlinson, bass (the Minotaur)
Christine Rice, mezzo-soprano (Ariadne)
Johan Reuter, baritone (Theseus)
The Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House
Antonio Pappano, cond.

The Moth Requiem
Philippa Davies, alto flute
Lucy Wakefield, Helen Tunstall, Hugh Webb, harps
BBC Singers
Nicholas Kok, cond.

In Broken Images
London Sinfonietta
David Atherton, cond.

Duet for Eight Strings
The Nash Ensemble:
Laurence Power, viola
Adrian Brendel, cello

Producer: Iain Chambers

Donald Macleod talks to Sir Harrison Birtwistle about his current work.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

20190120191028

This week Donald Macleod meets Sir Harrison Birtwistle, described as “the most forceful and uncompromisingly original composer of his generation”. We hear his major compositions, broadly in chronological order, and reveal the preoccupations and processes behind a singular music imagination.

In this episode, Birtwistle talks about his daily working life, and about his early years at what was then the Royal Manchester College of Music.
He tells Donald about how his problems with formal education didn't stop him becoming a voracious reader. Beginning as a clarinettist, he found himself developing a creative inner life beyond being an instrumentalist, and wanting to create a music that didn’t exist. We also hear about the infamous premiere of his first opera Punch and Judy at Aldeburgh, where much of the audience – including its commissioner Benjamin Britten – walked out at the interval.

Oockooing Bird
Stephen Pruslin, piano

Refrains and Choruses
The Galliard Ensemble

Punch and Judy (The Resolve; Passion Aria; Adding Song)
Stephen Roberts, baritone (Punch)
Jan Degaetani, mezzo-soprano (Judy)
David Wilson-Johnson, baritone (Choregos)
The London Sinfonietta
David Atherton, cond.

Tragoedia
Ensemble InterContemporain
Pierre Boulez, cond.

Producer: Iain Chambers

Donald Macleod meets Sir Harrison Birtwistle to discuss his early compositional life.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

20190220191029

This week Donald Macleod meets Sir Harrison Birtwistle, described as “the most forceful and uncompromisingly original composer of his generation”. We hear his major compositions, broadly in chronological order, and reveal the preoccupations and processes behind a singular music imagination.

In this episode, Donald Macleod explores Birtwistle’s time in America, after an invitation to teach there by his great friend Morton Feldman. We hear about his collaboration with the electronic music pioneer Peter Zinovieff on the tape piece Chronometer, and about how Breughel’s engraving The Triumph of Time foreshadows the structure of Birtwistle’s massive orchestral work of the same name.

Dinah and Nick’s Love Song
Helen Tunstall, harp
John Harle, saxophone
Simon Haram, saxophone
David Roach, saxophone

Trio
Lisa Batiashvili, violin
Adrian Brendel, cello
Till Fellner, piano

Chronometer
Peter Zinovieff, tape

The Triumph of Time
Philharmonia Orchestra
Elgar Howarth, cond.

Producer: Iain Chambers

Donald Macleod speaks to Sir Harrison Birtwistle about his friendship with Morton Feldman.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

20190320191030

This week Donald Macleod meets Sir Harrison Birtwistle, described as “the most forceful and uncompromisingly original composer of his generation”. We hear his major compositions, broadly in chronological order, and reveal the preoccupations and processes behind a singular music imagination.

In this episode, Donald Macleod looks at the powerful inspiration Birtwistle gets from mythology and how it drives so much of his music, not just in his many stage works, but permeating his entire output. They also discuss the music he made whilst living on the Hebridean island of Raasay, and what role landscape plays in his work
Birtwistle has described his music as ‘mechanical pastoral’. This style is heard most clearly in the composer’s favourite piece in his whole output, Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum.

Duets for Storab (Urlar; Stark Pastoral; Crunluath)
The Galliard Ensemble: Kathryn Thomas, Robert Manasse, flutes

Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum
The London Sinfonietta
Elgar Howarth, cond.

The Mask of Orpheus (13th, 14th 15th Arch from Act 2, Scene 2)
Anne-Marie Owens, mezzo-soprano (Persephone)
Jean Rigby, mezzo-soprano (Euridice)
Jon Garrison, tenor (Orpheus)
Omar Ebrahim, baritone (Charon)
BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers
Andrew Davis, Martyn Brabbins, conductors

Silbury Air
The London Sinfonietta
Elgar Howarth, cond.

Producer: Iain Chambers

Donald Macleod explores some of Sir Harrison Birtwistle's most striking music.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

20190420191031

This week Donald Macleod meets Sir Harrison Birtwistle, described as “the most forceful and uncompromisingly original composer of his generation”. We hear his major compositions, broadly in chronological order, and reveal the preoccupations and processes behind a singular music imagination.

In this episode, Birtwistle talks about some of his non-musical inspirations, from the paintings of Paul Klee to the films of Quentin Tarantino or the written words of Lorine Niedecker. He reveals how time, and the instruments for measuring time, have inspired many of his compositions, most notably in the fiendish piano work, Harrison’s Clocks, and he talks about why he enjoyed the furore over Panic, his notorious orchestral work performed at the 1995 Last Night of the Proms.

Nine Settings of Lorine Niedecker (There’s A Better Shine; How The White Gulls; My Life; Sleep’s Dream)
Amy Freston, soprano
Adrian Brendel, cello

Earth Dances
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Péter Eötvös, cond.

Harrison’s Clocks (Clock 2; Clock 5)
Nicolas Hodges, piano

Panic
John Harle, saxophone
Paul Clarvis, drum kit
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Andrew Davis, cond.

Producer: Iain Chambers

Donald Macleod explores Sir Harrison Birtwistle's non-musical inspirations.

Donald Macleod offers a weekly guide to composers and their music.

201905 LAST20191101