Rhinegold Photo credit: © Elaine K Photography
Richard Reason

Katy Wright

Deputy Editor, Classical Music

Premieres: February’s new music

8:00, 1st February 2018

The premiere of Richard Reason’s song cycle is 50 years overdue. Written while the composer was a student at the Royal Academy of Music in 1968, two scheduled performances fell through, and the piece was shelved for some time.

The song cycle was Reason’s last work ‘in a conventional style’ before he turned to experimental music. ‘I got permission from the trustees of Dylan Thomas to set these five poems to music, which I suspect would be virtually impossible today,’ the composer says. ‘I’ve still got the agreement – which is on foolscap paper!’

Richard Reason in 1968
Richard Reason in 1968

The work sets five Thomas poems: In the beginning; Light breaks where no sun shines; I dreamed my genesis; I fellowed sleep; and When like a running grave. Reason was drawn to Thomas because ‘everybody liked Under Milk Wood at that time – it was what you’re into when you’re a teenager.’ The composer says he enjoyed setting the texts ‘because there are so many adjectives: rotating, sleep, driving … all good stuff to set to music.’

Although Reason’s musical voice changed significantly after writing the song cycle, he says he still likes the piece. ‘It’s in C with a semi-tone shift. My idea was to treat the interval of the fourth and the fifth like you would’ve treated the third and the sixth in conventional music, but putting a semi-tone shift throughout. There is a worked-out tonality; it’s based on a pattern.’

‘I was going through it and thought I’d better check the words, because it was 50 years ago. When I got to the last song, I realised about four verses were missing in my version. I’d obviously decided I’d had enough! I had to get into my mind-set of 50 years ago so I could write those verses.’

Richard Reason Song cycle (Aidan Smith, bass, Piatti Quartet, Conway Hall, London, 6.30pm)

Commissioned by Berlin’s Konzerthaus, Aureliano Cattaneo’s violin concerto received its first performance in June 2008 – but it has had to wait ten years to make its UK debut. The piece has changed somewhat in the intervening years: in 2014, Klangforum Wien commissioned an ensemble version, and the composer created a new orchestral version in 2016.

Confronting the concerto: Aureliano Cattaneo © Lucía Núñez García
Confronting the concerto: Aureliano Cattaneo
© Lucía Núñez García

The work was the composer’s first orchestral piece, and he set out to explore the tension between soloist, chamber music and orchestral music. However, in seeking to find a solution to this problem, the new version created another: how to treat a chamber group with an orchestral writing. In the new version, according to Cattaneo, ‘the part of the violin has remained identical, it is the world built around it that has taken a different colour’. In both works, the ensemble reacts to the violin, expanding, mirroring or contrasting its material.

The four-movement piece is divided in two symmetrical parts, comprising short and fast movements and slow and long movements. The ideas that are present in the first part are then taken, developed and expanded in the second part. The core of the piece is close to the end, where there is a cadenza and we hear echoes of all the piece faced to completely new and contrasting elements that suggests us a new sound-world – but one which is, ultimately, unattainable.

Aureliano Cattaneo Violin concerto UK prem (Irvine Arditti, violin, Philharmonia Orchestra, Roland Kluttig, conductor, Royal Festival Hall, 6pm)

Roberto Rusconi String quartet no. 5 ‘Algorithm in one movement’ (Minguet Quartet, No. 20, Islington, London, 8pm)

George Walker Icarus in Orbit UK prem (BBC Symphony Orchestra, James Feddeck, conductor, Barbican, 7.30pm)

George Walker Lilacs UK prem (BBC Philharmonic, John Storgårds, conductor, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, 7.30pm)

Bach (Mendelssohn) St Matthew Passion UK prem (Nicholas Mulroy, BBC Singers, St James’ Baroque, Peter Dijkstra, conductor, Milton Court, 3pm)

Shahriyar Farshid New work (OENM, Cardiff University Concert Hall, 7pm)
Alex Gowan-Webster Cantio Invocatione (Mimi Doulton, soprano, St George the Martyr, Borough High Street, London, 1pm)

Helen Grime New work (Ruby Hughes, soprano, Joseph Middleton, piano, Wigmore Hall, 7.30pm)

Linda Catlin Smith Uncertain for 8 voices (ExplorEnsemble, Exaudi, James Weeks, conductor, St John’s Smith Square, London, 7pm)
Nicola LeFanu St Hilda of Whitby (Choir and Orchestra of St Hilda’s College, Oxford, Dr Jonathan Williams, conductor, University Church, Oxford, 5.30pm)

Jake Heggie Dead Man Walking UK prem (Joyce DiDonato, Michael Mayes, Maria Zifchak, Measha Brueggergosman, Lucy Schaufer, Toni Marsol, Maria Hinojosa, BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Mark Wigglesworth, Barbican, 7pm)

Owain Park New work (London Choral Sinfonia, Michel Waldron, conductor, St John’s Smith Square, London, 7.30pm)
David Bednall Assumpta est Maria Oli Tarney In homeward flight Mark Simpson Ave Maria Julian Anderson Magnificat Julian Wachner Regina Caeli á 8 Matthew Martin Sanctissima (ORA Singers, Suzi Digby, conductor, Manchester Cathedral, 7.30pm)
Anton Lukoszevieze Opéret OPERA Operec (An Assembly, Hackney Round Chapel, London, 7.30pm)

Joseph Phibbs New work (Ailish Tynan, soprano, Anna Huntley, mezzo-soprano, Ilker Arcayürek, tenor, Stephan Loges, bass-baritone, Graham Johnson, piano, Wigmore Hall, 7.30pm)
Giancarlo Castro Trumpet concerto (Francisco ‘Pacho’ Flores, trumpet, Ulster Orchestra, Rafael Payare, conductor, Ulster Hall, Belfast, 7.45pm)
John Joubert Reflection on the Plainchant Antiphon- In odorem Giles Swayne Benedicta filia Kim Porter Pulchra es et decora (ORA Singers, Suzi Digby, conductor, Cheltenham College Chapel, 7.30pm)

Francisco Coll Stella Alexander Campkin Ave Regina coelorum Sven-David Sandstrom O salutaris hostiaTantum Ergo (ORA Singers, Suzi Digby, LSO St Luke’s, London, 7.30pm)

Philip Sawyers Violin concerto (Alexander Sitkovetsky, violin, English Symphony Orchestra, Kenneth Woods, conductor, Shirehall, Hereford, 3.30pm)

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