The 17-minute piece comprises three movements, composed intermittently over the course of the year and drawing inspiration from trees and plants that Weir observed over the changing seasons. The piece opens in April to the sound of new leaves on branches moving in the wind. The second movement, October, brings increasing darkness. The work concludes in February, taking the listener to the depths of the trees’ roots as they hold firm against the cold.
Nature has long been a fruitful source of inspiration for Judith Weir, in pieces including Forest, composed for the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Sir Simon Rattle in 1995, The welcome arrival of rain, written for the Minnesota Orchestra’s centennial season and Winter Song, jointly commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Tapiola Sinfonietta. But in the final line of her introduction to Begin Afresh, the composer sounds a note of caution: '...the year 2022 contained a horrible event I hadn’t seen before: leaves falling in August after the extreme heat and drought of that summer.'
Begin Afresh was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and will be performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under its Chief Conductor Sakari Oramo. The concert will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and available to listen afterwards on BBC Sounds.
On August 25, the premiere recording of Weir’s 2018 Oboe Concerto is released on the Artaria label. The recording features oboist Celia Craig, for whom the piece was written, and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra conducted by Douglas Boyd.