Premieres: April’s new music11:48, 3rd April 2019
2019 marks the bicentenary of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s birth, and by way of celebration, the V&A are putting Queen Victoria’s recently-acquired coronet on public display. Joby Talbot’s A Sheen of Dew on Flowers has drawn inspiration from the coronet and explores themes of love and loss in the context of Victoria and Albert’s mutual devotion.
An Independent Opera commission, the new work will be performed by Britten Sinfonia and Britten Sinfonia Voices, conducted by Natalie Murray Beale, on the same day as the coronet is unveiled. ‘We’re really luck that it’s coinciding,’ says Natalie. ‘The coronet is a strong symbol of Victoria’s devotion to Prince Albert – a symbol that he was very much in her life and her mind even after his death.’
For the libretto, Talbot has selected poetry from across the world, including from 10th-century Japan and 12th-century Persia. ‘They are different reflections on love and partnership,’ says Natalie, ‘but very much from a female protagonist’s perspective.’
The soloists are Kelley O’Connor (mezzo-soprano) and Tobias Greenhalgh (baritone), singing parts loosely representative of Victoria and Albert. ‘The mezzo-soprano role is the protagonist, and she really leads the poetry. The baritone’s role diminishes as the piece goes on – symbolic of his illness and death.’ Musically, Talbot has used a wide range of percussion, as well as some non-Western instruments such as bowls and Indian bells. This, Natalie explains, ‘reflects the poetry and the ancient nature of some of the poetry and storytelling.’
In her approach to conducting the piece, Natalie will be focussing on balancing the text with the orchestra, but her biggest role, she says, ‘is to get the shape of the piece right, so that it has an arc.’ She is excited for the premiere, describing the process of unveiling a new work as ‘liberating. It becomes personal in a different way because you build a relationship with the composer. Their friends and your friends gather. I love my time on stage with the orchestra and choir and singers; the real world stops for an hour or two. It’s incredibly invigorating.’
She continues: ‘With a new work there’s no expectation. I find with very well-known pieces and you have to start from that point of discovery again. But with a new work, that sense of discovery is established straight away. And of course it’s a pleasure for all the performers.’ Natalie says that she hopes audiences ‘might reflect on this idea of love when there is separation or loss. And on another level entirely,’ she adds, ‘I think this music really makes you want to sing and join in’.
Joby Talbot A Sheen Of Dew On Flowers (Britten Sinfonia; Natalie Murray Beale, conductor, Barbican, 7.30pm)
PREMIERES IN THE UK & IRELAND
World premieres unless otherwise stated.
Tom Poster New work (Tom Poster, piano, Matthew Rose, bass, Wigmore Hall, 7.30pm)
Jukka Tiensuu Hehkuu UK prem (Philharmonia Orchestra, Jonathan Stockhammer, conductor, Wu Wei, sheng, Southbank Centre: Queen Elizabeth Hall, 6pm)
Missy Mazzoli Dark with Excessive Bright UK prem (Aurora Orchestra, Nicholas Collon, conductor, Benjamin Griffiths, double bass, Yeol Eum Son, piano, King’s Place: Hall One, London, 7pm)
Jan Dismas Zelenka Missa Divi Xaverii UK prem (Valentine Singers, Christine Gwynn, conductor, St Andrew’s Church, Ilford, 7.30pm)
Luca Luciano Clarinet Sonata no. 8 (Luca Luciano, clarinet, Yukiko Osedo, piano, OSO Arts Centre, London, 7.30pm)
Dean Brett New work (The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Tommaso Lonquich, clarinet, Arnaud Sussmann, violin, Yura Lee, violin, Nicholas Canellakis, cello, Wu Qian, piano, Wigmore Hall, 7.30pm)
Joby Talbot A Sheen of Dew on Flowers (Britten Sinfonia, Natalie Murray Beale, conductor, Britten Sinfonia Voices, Barbican, 7.30pm)
Harrison Birtwistle Duet for 8 Strings for viola and cello; Oliver Knussen Study for ‘Metamorphosis’ for solo bassoon UK prem (Nash Ensemble, Stefan Asbury, conductor, Claire Booth, soprano, Wigmore Hall, 7.30pm)
Andrea Tarrodi Liguria Scottish prem (National Youth Orchestras of Scotland Symphony Orchestra, Elim Chan, conductor, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, 7.30pm)
Gabriel Jackson Stabat Mater London prem (The Marian Consort, Rory McCleery, conductor, St John’s Smith Square, London, 7.30pm)
Debussy arr Alain Altinoglu Suite from Pelléas et Mélisande UK prem (BBC Symphony Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis, conductor, Barbican, 7.30pm)
David Bruce New work for soprano and bass (Matthew Rose, bass, Katherine Broderick, soprano, Jan Schmolck, viola, Anna Tilbrook, piano, Temple Church, London, 7pm)