Following on from a hugely successful year celebrating her ninetieth birthday, the 2019-20 season will feature an equally exciting array of premieres and performances of works by Thea Musgrave.
New York, LA, Prague, Hamburg, Bordeaux, Reykjavík and Auckland will all host premieres or significant performances of her works – works which range from a new choral piece for the National Youth Choir of Great Britain to her grand orchestral pieces Phoenix Rising and Turbulent Landscapes. This is not to mention three German premieres within the space of three months or the UK premiere of her Night Windows for Oboe and 15 Strings which took place just last month in Glasgow.
More and more each year audiences are discovering what a trailblazer the Scottish composer was (and still is), herself being an early adopter of electronics in her music, possessing a distinctive modernist language of her own, and a pioneer of incorporating theatrical elements into her chamber, choral and orchestral music. Her latter works (which she still pens each morning) draw upon all of these elements to inform her music, emphasising drama, orchestral colour and the singing line.
October 5, 2019
Loch Ness (2012) - Icelandic Premiere
Iceland Symphony Orchestra
Michelle Merrill, conductor
Harpa Hall, Reykjavík
Hosts Thurídur Blaer Jóhannsdóttir and Gudmundur Felixson will lead children and parent’s through a magical time travel of the orchestra, stopping along the way on the Icelandic premiere of Musgrave’s light tone poem Loch Ness. As ‘Nessy’ the tuba tosses and turn in the loch, the great orchestral waters crash, ripple and calm.
Trumpet Concerto (2019) - German Premiere
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
Alison Balsom, trumpet
Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, conductor
Having given the second ever performance of Musgrave’s new concerto for Alison Balsom in Birmingham just six days before, the CBSO take this new entry into the genre on tour to the Elbphilharmonie for its German premiere. Programmed alongside Ruth Gipps’s Symphony No 2, they aim to showcase the some of the best orchestral music by some of Britain’s leading women composers.
Phoenix Rising (1997) – German premiere
Magdeburg Philharmonic Orchestra
Wilson Ng, conductor
Theater Magdeburg, Germany
Musgrave’s orchestral poem depicting a phoenix immolating and rising from the ashes received a fantastic return to the BBC Proms last year, televised to the nation just over twenty years since its premiere. Now it’s Germany’s turn to host a premiere as the Magdeburg Philharmonic Orchestra give two performances of this dramatic work, which bristles and takes flight with fiery rhythm and shimmering strings.
Largo in Homage to B.A.C.H. (2013) – German Premiere
Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss
Nicholas Daniel, conductor
Zeughaus Neuss, Germany
Friend and frequent collaborator Nicholas Daniel leads the Deutsche Kammerakademie Neuss in the German premiere of the short work for string orchestra. In one continuous movement, it’s an abstract mapping on an emotional journey: Lamentoso (mournful), Ardente (fervent), Inquieto (restless) and Sereno (peaceful). Listen out for a brief quote from Bach’s St Matthew Passion.
January 31, 2020
Rainbow (1990) in New York
Focus Festival 2020
Anne Manson, conductor
Lincoln Center, New York
This year Juilliard’s Focus Festival, now in its 36th year, highlights the ‘Pioneering Women Composers of the 20th Century’. The Juilliard Orchestra open the final concert of the week-long festival with Thea Musgrave’s Rainbow.
The Voices of our Ancestors (2014) – French Premiere
Chorus of L’Opera National de Bordeaux
Salvatore Caputo, conductor
l’Auditorium de l’Opéra National Bordeaux, France
Setting texts in Vedic, Sanskrit, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Chinese, Latin, Greek and Egyptian as well as a dose of ritualistic procession, The Voices of our Ancestors is not an easy piece. But no doubt the experienced chorus of the Bordeaux Opera will bring their particular expertise to wring the mysticism out of this fantastic piece.
Turbulent Landscapes (2003) – Czech Premiere
Prague Spring International Music Festival 2020
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Smetana Hall, Prague
Since being commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra the BBC Symphony Orchestra have returned time and again to champion this six-part impression of J. M. W. Turner’s paintings. They tour to the stunning Smetana Hall in Prague to join the Prague Spring International Music Festival.
July (date tbc)
Trumpet Concerto (2019) – US Premiere
Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra
Alison Balsom, trumpet
Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles
Co-commissioners of the Trumpet Concerto, the LA Phil, present the US premiere at the sun-bathed Hollywood Bowl as part of a summer-season focus on the trumpet as soloist. Musgrave often turns to other works of art for inspiration and this new concerto is no exception. Scottish co-patriot Victoria Crowe’s nature paintings are the muse behind this work's flickering energy. More details to be released in the new year.
July (date tbc)
By the River (2019) – World Premiere, New Zealand
World Symposium on Choral Music 2020
National Youth Choir of Great Britain
Ben Parry, conductor
Auckland, New Zealand
Next summer the National Youth Choir of Great Britain travel to Auckland for the World Symposium on Choral Music 2020 and have commissioned a short choral work to mark the event. The conference’s theme is around the ideas of land, home, and countryside so Musgrave has turned to New Zealand poet and social worker Mary Ursula Bethell’s (1874-1945) 'By the River Ashley' for text to celebrate the choir’s travels. They will tour the piece that summer, returning to the UK with it and releasing a recording on their digital download label later that year.
Photo: Thea Musgrave by Bryan Sheffield