This is a good year for musical anniversaries – Haydn, Mendelssohn and Handel among others – and one which will certainly prove a good excuse for some wonderful music-making is that of Henry Purcell (1659-95).
The Fitzwilliam String Quartet, whose range includes all kinds of music from the early baroque to the absolutely contemporary, have often played Purcell’s wonderful Fantazias for Viols, written when he was just 19 and showing a brilliant and quirky genius which is equally adept at old-fashioned English and new-fangled Italian styles.
To mark his anniversary they are commissioning short new pieces which taking off from Purcell in whatever way the composers wish. I’m delighted to have been commissioned to write one of these, which will be premiered by the Fitzwilliam Quartet in a concert at Fitzwilliam College on Sunday April 26 at 8.00. At the moment I have a title – Fantazia – and about one and half minutes of music. I should finish it off quite soon now.
Earlier this year the Fitzes played my String Quartet in Cambridge, following their premiere in the US last year. They will perform it again in the Cambridge Music Festival on November 24 2009.
Two performances coming up this Friday:
Virtuoso organist Kevin Bowyer plays a pair of organ pieces, called Dry-Stone Wall and Rising Dough, on Friday 13 June in Glasgow University. I won’t go into the titles here, as it’s all explained in the programme notes (scroll down to the end). Dry-Stone Wall has been thoroughly revised – though the basic idea is the same, the notes are quite different, and much better! – and this will be the first performance of the piece in its new (and final) version.
And on the same night, Friday 13th, The Fitzwilliam String Quartet are playing Ancient Stone at Twilight in the Late Music Festival in York: 7.30 in the Early Music Centre. They played this piece beautifully in a recent concert in Cambridge, in its version with soprano solo. Now they play it in the version for string quartet alone. This piece is incorporated as the first movement of my new three-movement String Quartet (the other movements are brand new) and the Fitzwilliams are giving the premiere of the whole thing next month in Woodstock, NY – see maverick music festival.
This July the Fitzwilliam String Quartet will be giving the premiere of my new string quartet in Woodstock, New York, in the Maverick Music Festival. This is an idyllic setting for chamber music; the concert is on Sunday 27 July at 4.00 and also includes Mozart and Tchaikovsky. Full details at www.maverickconcerts.org
The new quartet incorporates one movement which has already been heard – a piece called Ancient Stone at Twilight. The Fitzes have played this quite a few times over the last few years, and gave a wonderful performance in Cambridge last month, with soprano Suzana Ograsenjek. In a version without the soprano, this piece is now the first movement of the new quartet. The other movements are entirely new and will be heard for the first time in Woodstock in July.
Next month the Zephyr Ensemble will be giving the premiere of a new piece for concert-band, Swings and Roundabouts, which I’ve written specially for them and their conductor, Brandon Green. Zephyr is the wind-band of the Cambridge University Musical Society, and they’ll be giving the premiere on Tuesday 17 May at 8.00 in West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge. It’s quite a zany piece! I’ll post up the programme notes soon, which explain the title.
Music by Jeremy Thurlow.
Flare is a short, sharp, alarm-call kind of piece for orchestra which I wrote last month and which has just received its premiere by the Ghent University Symphony Orchestra conducted by Steven Decraene in Cambridge last week. It went very well and I’m looking forward to further performances in Ghent next month.
Music by Jeremy Thurlow
Wheels within wheels is the second piece I’ve been commissioned to write for cello and piano duo Oliver Gledhill and David Christophersen (the first was When the Magus reads the Night Sky, which they premiered in 2003). It picks up an idea I started on a couple of years ago, where the different instruments trace melodies which turn and return on various different levels, at different rates, all the time, like some kind of musical planetary system (to be precise, like the system of ‘epicycles’ put forward by Ptolemy, which assumes Earth to be at the centre, and accounts for the planet’s complex pathways with remarkable accuracy. See a demonstration of how it works on youtube, or try Ptolemy meets Homer Simpson).
It’s an inspiring idea, but difficult to realise without getting tied into cycles and schemes which can go stale when you’re halfway through them. After a promising start two years ago I got thoroughly stuck, and put the piece away. The request from David Christophersen prompted me to get the piece out again. It took a while to disentangle the threads and to find a way forward that wouldn’t lead back into the same dead ends that I’d been staring at before, but in the end I found another direction to go in, and from then on things went with a swing. The piece is largely serene, but runs into a very sombre ending which was not at all what I was expecting; when it came to it, the turn towards darkness suddenly seemed necessary and unavoidable. The first performance will be on February 25 in West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge.
Matthew Schellhorn will be giving the premiere of a short piano piece I wrote for him last summer, fleeting… in Bangor on 14 February. It will be played as part of a wonderful programme including music by Messiaen, Dutilleux, Ravel, and Colin Riley in the Powis Hall, Bangor University.
Matthew is currently planning to record fleeting… along with The Will of the Tones, which was also written for him, and a selection of my other solo piano and chamber music, on a CD to be released next year.
Music by Jeremy Thurlow
I’ve been writing a new piece for ensemble CB3, which they will premiere in the West Road Concert Hall, Cambridge on Friday January 25th at 8.00. I’ve been asked to ‘curate’ the programme, and have chosen an exciting line-up of music by John Woolrich, Jonathan Harvey, Ewan Campbell and Magnus Lindberg. Michael Downes conducts my piece and the Woolrich, and the rest of the programme is shared between myself and Fergus Macleod. CB3 have made a speciality of new music and this will be one of their biggest programmes to date.
My new piece is called Breath, and is scored for an unusual ensemble in which reed instruments are very much to the fore. After the concert I will post up an excerpt to listen to, and the programme note, on this site.
Music by Jeremy Thurlow
I now have full details of the BBC Phil. concert conducted by James Macmillan which includes my piece Search Engines. It’s an Invitation Concert in Studio 7, BBC Manchester (in Oxford Road) on Friday 23rd February, starting at 7.30.
Tickets are free, and need to be reserved by calling the BBC Philharmonic ticket line on 0161 244 4002, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The programme consists of four new pieces:
Christian Mason, …from bursting suns escaping…
Jeremy Thurlow, Search Engines
Symon Clarke, Statue Circle
Matthew Brooks, Event horizon
There’s an intriguing suggestion of common ground between the four titles, and it will be fascinating to hear the four (entirely independent and unprompted) approaches to the themes of discovery, technology and nature. (For a short note about the ideas behind my piece, see the programme notes page and scroll down to ‘Orchestral Music’.)
The concert will be recorded; it may later be broadcast and if so I’ll post up details as soon as I hear them.
Music by Jeremy Thurlow