Rhinegold Photo credit: Benjamin Ealovega

Melissa Bradshaw

Premieres: August’s new music

11:24, 6th August 2019

Huw Watkins’ new piece for chorus and orchestra, The Moon, is inspired by this year’s 50th anniversary of the first moon landings. Melissa Bradshaw reports

Commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for its world premiere at the BBC Proms this month, Huw Watkins’ The Moon uses three poems by Percy B. Shelley, Walt Whitman and Philip Larkin to encapsulate the feelings of wonder and mystery we associate with the moon. ‘In the end, it’s not specifically about landing on the moon,’ explains Watkins. ‘There’s no “great leap of mankind” or anything like that, no “blast off!” It’s definitely more about our relationship with the moon and what it means to us, poetically. I hope that I’ve captured something about the “otherness”, the magical, sort of inaccessible feel – even though we’ve been there now!’

The Moon is the third piece that Watkins has written for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales since taking up the position of composer-in-association with the ensemble in 2015. ‘It’s the third piece I’ve written for them in that role but I’ve worked with the orchestra for a very long time before that. I’m very lucky to have that position, it’s a chance to get to know the orchestra very well,’ Watkins says. ‘They’re brilliant and so accommodating, it’s been a wonderful experience working with them regularly.’

The premiere also sees Watkins working with the BBC National Chorus of Wales for the first time, something the composer describes as an exciting challenge. ‘It’s the biggest piece I’ve written – not the longest, but in terms of the amount of people performing it… It’s my first time working with [conductor] Tadaaki Otaka too and the orchestra love him, so that’s going to be really nice.’ As both a pianist and a composer, Watkins tells us the biggest difficulty in writing a piece for orchestra and chorus is remembering to write not just with piano in mind: ‘You’ve got to remember that you’ve got different resources at your disposal. You can see that in some composer pianists, they don’t think orchestrally, and sometimes I have to remind myself to do that – to think of the vast amounts of colour you can get with the orchestra that you can’t with piano.’


The Moon (BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC National Chorus of Wales, Tadaaki Otaka, conductor, BBC Proms: Royal Albert Hall, 7pm)


World premieres unless otherwise stated.


Huw Watkins The Moon (BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC National Chorus of Wales, Tadaaki Otaka, conductor, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, 7pm)


Benjamin Beckman New work UK prem (National Youth Orchestra of the USA, Brass of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Sir Antonio Pappano, conductor, Joyce DiDonato, mezzo-soprano, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, 11am)

Detlev Glanert Weites Land UK prem (BBC Symphony Orchestra, Christina Gansch, soprano, Semyon Bychkov, conductor, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, 8pm)


Kalevi Aho, Sally Beamish, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Richard Blackford, Gavin Bryars, Brett Dean, Dai Fujikura, Wim Henderickx, Colin Matthews, Anthony Payne, John Pickard, David Sawer, Iris ter Schiphorst and Judith Weir Pictured Within: Birthday Variations for M. C. B. New ‘Enigma’ variations (BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers, ENO Chorus, Martyn Brabbins, conductor, Nadine Benjamin & Idunnu Münch, sopranos, William Morgan, tenor, David Ireland, bass, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, 7pm)


Errollyn Wallen This Frame Is Part of the Painting (BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Elim Chan, conductor, Catriona Morison, mezzo-soprano, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, 7pm)

Tim Perkins Capela Dos Ossos (Oxford Proms Orchestra, Catherine Underwood, conductor, Lucy Downer, clarinet, Maki Sekiya, piano, University Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford, 7.30pm)


Joanna Lee At this man’s hand (BBC Singers, Sofi Jeannin, conductor, BBC Proms, St Sepulchre-without-Newgate, London, 3pm)

Sir James MacMillan Symphony no. 5 “Le grand inconnu” (Scottish Chamber Orchestra, The Sixteen, Genesis Sixteen, Sir James MacMillan, conductor, Harry Christophers, conductor, Edinburgh International Festival, Usher Hall, 8pm)


Dieter Ammann Piano Concerto; Jonathan Dove We Are One Fire (BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Chorus, Sakari Oramo, conductor, Neil Ferris, conductor, Andreas Haefliger, piano, Mika Kares, bass, Michael Weinius, tenor, Hilary Summers, contralto, Anu Komsi, soprano, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, 7.30pm)


Ryan Wigglesworth Piano Concerto (Britten Sinfonia, Ryan Wigglesworth, piano, conductor, Marc-André Hamelin, piano, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, 7.30pm)


Dobrinka Tabakova New work (BBC Concert Orchestra, Bramwell Tovey, conductor, Leon McCawley, piano, Nathaniel Anderson-Frank, violin, BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, 7.30pm)



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