• Judith Weir
  • Begin Afresh (2022)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and first performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo at the Royal Albert Hall on 24 August 2023 as part of the BBC Proms.

Unavailable for performance.

  • 3(III:pic).2+ca.2+bcl.2+cbn/4.3.2+btbn.1/timp.2perc/pf/str
  • 17 min

Programme Note

I.    April
II.   October
III.  February

Begin Afresh is a kind of diary, an almost continuous survey of musical reflections about the trees and plants I observed, in a very urban setting, over the period of a year. During my year of writing, starting in the spring, I had to break off twice, in early autumn and at the start of the new year; so I titled the three parts of this composition with the name of the month in which I started or restarted it - April, October and February.

My first impression, inviting me to begin the piece, was simply the sound in April of new leaves on branches moving in the wind; I realised I was hearing the repeated “afresh” sound at the end of Philip Larkin’s poem, The Trees;

"Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh."

I. April often refers to this refreshing aural moment. Big textures suddenly cut away to reveal very quiet, almost inaudible movement. II. October observes the heaviness of trees still in leaf amidst increasing darkness.  III. February begins by considering the depth and strength of tree roots, despite the opposition of cold and darkness.

These impressions may seem generic – they’re tree events I look forward to every year. But I should add that 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 is dedicated to the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Programme note © 2023 Judith Weir


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