Michael Hersch’s the script of storms sets the poetry of Iraqi poet Fawzi Karim to music for soprano and orchestra. Melissa Bradshaw reports

‘I first met Fawzi Karim after reading a chapter about him in a book by Marius Kociejowski,’ explains Hersch, reminiscing upon how he first came across the poet’s work. ‘I was both moved and taken aback by much of the work’s power.’ Describing Karim as a ‘kind, thoughtful and gentle figure’, the composer notes that although best known for his poetry, Karim’s talent did not only extend to this particular art form. ‘He was also a very gifted painter,’ Hersch adds. ‘Through both his poetry and his painting, Karim grappled with elements of the human experience which many, if not most, turn away from. His passing in 2019 is a terrible loss.’

The effect of Karim’s work on Hersch is evident as he talks about the decision to translate it into music – he describes himself as ‘haunted’ by his art, both words and paintings. ‘Karim and I had discussed the potential intersection of his words and music. Though our backgrounds were vastly different, we bonded somehow,’ Hersch says. ‘He encouraged me to engage with [his work] on musical terms.’

“Karim grappled with elements of the human experience which many, if not most, turn away from”

the script of storms will be premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra with soprano Ah Young Hong, conducted by Tito Muñoz. Hersch was deeply inspired by Hong since first hearing her in 2012, and he explains how it was as a result of this that most of the work he has written since 2012 has been for voice. ‘Hong has an uncanny ability to inhabit the expressive core of certain poets – especially voices like that of Karim. In this unique case, Karim had heard her at a memorial service for the poet Christopher Middleton,’ recalls Hersch. ‘He wrote me often asking when he could hear her next, whatever the repertoire might be. I wanted to attempt to bring their two voices together.’

Conductor Muñoz has worked with Hersch for many years and is the ‘ideal partner for a composer,’ Hersch says. ‘He has notable command of all the repertoire he engages with, both old and new, and that command is communicated to both orchestra and audience. But he also has a firm vision for what he conducts, and that is something one doesn’t encounter every day.’


Michael Hersch the script of storms (BBC Symphony Orchestra, Ah Young Hong, soprano, Tito Muñoz, conductor, Maida Vale Studios)




(World premieres unless otherwise stated. Full listings at classicalmusicmagazine.org)


Bechara El Khoury Unfinished Journey UK prem (United Strings of Europe, Héloïse Werner, soprano, Conway Hall, London, 7.30pm)


Cormac Begley MÁM UK prem (Michael Keegan-Dolan, Teaċ Daṁsa, s t a r g a z e, Sadlers Wells, 7.30pm)


Edward Gregson Vision in a Dream – Concerto for Oboe and Orchestra (BBC Philharmonic, Jennifer Galloway, oboe, Ben Gernon, conductor, Leeds Town Hall, 7.30pm)


Carmen Ho The Way It Is (Ensemble 360, Upper Chapel, Sheffield, 7.15pm)


Elena Langer Figaro Gets a Divorce UK prem (BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Gergely Madaras, conductor, Karen Gomyo, violin, City Halls: Concert Hall, Glasgow, 7.30pm)


Micheal Hersch The Script of Storms (BBC Symphony Orchestra, Ah Young Hong, soprano, Tito Muñoz, conductor, Maida Vale Studios)


Isabel Mundry Beethoven Resonances UK prem; Francesco Filidei New work UK prem (Gürzenich Orchestra, François-Xavier Roth, conductor, Pierre Laurent-Aimard, piano, Southbank Centre: Royal Festival Hall, 7.30pm)


Anders Hillborg New work UK prem (BBC Singers, Ragnar Rasmussen, conductor, Theo Hillborg, saxophone, St Giles Cripplegate, London, 4pm)

Jörg Widmann String Quartet no. 7 “Study on Beethoven II” UK prem (Artemis Quartet, Wigmore Hall, 7.30pm)

Gustavo Trujillo Clarinet Concerto ‘Travesía’ (Amicus Orchestra, Cathrine Larsen-Maguire, conductor, Maximiliano Martín, clarinet, St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, 7.30pm)


Jasdeep Singh Degun Arya (Orchestra of Opera North, Harish Shankar, conductor, Jasdeep Singh Degun, sitar, Huddersfield Town Hall, 4.30pm)


Lliam Paterson The Angel Esmerelda (Scottish Opera, Dominic Wheeler, conductor, Martin Lloyd-Evans, director, Gregor Donnelly, designer, Robbie Butler, lighting, Barbican Silk Street Theatre, 7pm)


James Hoyle New work (London Symphony Orchestra, Elim Chan, conductor, Lukáš Vondrácek, piano, Barbican Hall, 7.30pm)