A Carnival of the Animals for the 21st century

A Carnival of the Animals for the 21st century
Red panda
© Mathias Appel/Wikimedia Commons

Debbie Wiseman sounds a note of warning in her latest work, Carnival of the Endangered Animals, a 21st century sequel to Camille Saint-Saëns’ classic suite. The piece has been commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra as part of its centenary celebrations and receives its world premiere at Symphony Hall, Birmingham, on October 24.

Wiseman has chosen six currently endangered species for her Carnival – red panda, Galapagos penguin, blue whale, black rhino, polar bear and orangutan – capturing their individuality whilst also drawing attention to their plight, which includes threats from hunting, pollution, habitat loss and climate change.

About Debbie Wiseman

An award-winning composer of music for stage and screen, in addition to more than 200 credits for film and television, Debbie Wiseman has written concert works for audiences of all ages, composed music for royal occasions and is Classic FM’s much-loved Composer in Residence. She is the recipient of the British Academy of Composers and Songwriter’s Gold Badge of Merit, a Fellow of the Royal College of Music and, in 2018, was awarded an OBE for services to music. Among her concert works are dramatizations of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales (The Devoted Friend, The Nightingale and the Rose, The Selfish Giant), an introduction to the orchestra for young audiences (Different Voices) and orchestral suites inspired by astrology (The Musical Zodiac) and horticulture (The Glorious Garden).

Five more pieces inspired the natural world...

Malcolm Arnold
Carnival of the Animals (1960)

Debbie Wiseman is not the first composer to supplement Saint-Saëns’ Carnival – a giraffe, elephant and bats were among the creatures Malcolm Arnold added to the musical menagerie in this work composed for the Gerard Hoffnung Memorial Concert.

Gabriela Lena Frank
Contested Eden (2021)

Living with climate change is an everyday reality for composer Gabriela Lena Frank whose home state of California is ravaged by fires every year. Premiered this summer, this short, powerful work grapples with the question of how an artist can respond, ending in ‘an ultimately optimistic embrace of challenges to come’.

Outi Tarkainen Songs of the Ice (2019)

‘In the Arctic region, the ice breathes with the seasons’, writes Outi Tarkiainen who grew up in northern Finland. In this piece it takes on human characteristics, wailing as it shatters, melts and re-freezes. The composer dedicates the piece to the Okjökull glacier, declared dead in 2014.

Nico Muhly
Control – Five Landscapes for Orchestra (2015)

Utah is the focus of this five-movement work, which is inspired by aspects of the state's natural environment. Muhly captures the ways in which the landscape has been shaped by human intervention, as well as the sense of awe experienced by the pioneers at its shapes and colours.

Ludovico Einaudi Wetlands

When commissioned to write a work for World Environment Day, Ludovico Einaudi chose to focus on water and its interactions with the land. The result was a meditative work reflecting on the delicate balance between the two elements, which ends without resolution, as if asking the listener to question the future.

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