Sally Beamish (born 1956) - The Sins
Recorded live on: 24th February 2012
Duration: 33 minutes 35 seconds
Music by Sally Beamish, translation of Langland text and new text by Phil Hind, commissioned by Beryl Calver-Jones and Gerry Mattock, following an original idea by Gerry Mattock.
Beamish is one of many composers who, in the last two or three decades, have found the powerful and often contradictory winds of modernism blowing them towards some kind of rediscovered modality - not the old system of major and minor keys, except perhaps vestigially, but a language of floating harmonic centres and flowing melody. Connections then become possible with the cultures of distant times and places, and with the power of sound to evoke familiar patterns of feeling, including a feeling for landscape. In and through such music we can also loop back, as here, more than six centuries to the late medieval poem Piers Plowman, which Beamish and her co-author Phil Hind took as their source - in particular to the section where the protagonist Will, in his dream, has a vision of the seven deadly sins. Hind's updating of the poem, maintaining its strong alliterations, begins with lines from the prologue in which Will settles himself to sleep, then brings forward the sins, and supplements the original text with three new sins and an epilogue.
Semi-theatrical, the work starts with a piccolo calling from offstage, almost like a bird, while the narrator speaks introductory lines from the original text. The piccolo player moves to flute for a falling three-note scale motif that will be important to what follows, and at the same time walks on, the tempo quickening for the opening lines to be said again in Hind's version, now with bird calls from the clarinettist and rattlings from the percussionist, both still offstage. When the clarinettist has entered the tempo picks up again and we meet the first sin, Avarice, in a swirling dance for flute and clarinet (the latter also shaking a bag of coins) with unseen drummer, the dance kicked off by an upside-down version of the flute's three-note fall.
An interlude brings in the cello and establishes a new, slithering speed for disturbing tritones from which grows the music of Envy, for alto flute, clarinet, cello and percussion. The next interlude completes the ensemble by introducing the double bass in its bottom register to belch for Gluttony, whose music also reels with triple-time emanations from the three-note scale first heard in the prologue. A clarinet solo, marked 'Allegretto lascivioso', takes over for Lust, which is then graphically represented in music that moves towards an emphatic climax to end with deep decay. Sloth inevitably has a slow movement, with glissandos from the strings, to be followed by a cello solo heralding Pride's 'Allegretto pomposo'. The jagged, hurrying music of Anger ensues without any preparation, and exhausts itself to leave a slow drumbeat, over which the narrator moves on to the new sins.
These are Pollution (a slow movement related to Sloth's), Drug Addiction (with reference to Gluttony) and Causing Poverty (related to Avarice, but now with the two strings, not the two woodwinds, plus percussion). With the work thus coming full circle, the epilogue brings a return to the music of the prologue and leaves us with a question.
Programme note © Paul Griffiths
Sally Beamish composer
Sally Beamish is known internationally as a concert composer. Originally a viola player, Beamish received an Arts Council Composer's Bursary in 1989, and moved from London to Scotland, where her career as a composer has flourished.
Her orchestral output is considerable, including two symphonies; and the concerto form is a continuing source of inspiration to her, with requests from many soloists of international standing.
Her relationship with Beryl Calver-Jones and Gerry Mattock has been a feature of her work since 1997, when Gerry commissioned a work for his 70th birthday. They have gone on to support Beamish's work in many ways, including the co-funding of her reconstruction of Debussy's Suite for Cello and Orchestra , recently released on the BIS label, with Steven Isserlis and the Tapiola Sinfonietta conducted by Gabor Takacs-Nagy. In May, a new version of their commission Lost and Found in the Forest of Dean (premiered by the Kings Singers in 2006) was premiered by actor Crawford Logan, with the Carducci Quartet. This is a setting of four specially written poems by David Pownall. The work to be premiered tonight by Jonathan Best and Psappha, The Sins, is Gerry and Beryl's most recent Beamish commission.
Beamish's second concerto for cellist Robert Cohen received its premiere in 2009 with the Minnesota Orchestra conducted by Osmo Vanska, to an enthusiastic reception. Her next concerto is for percussionist Colin Currie, with the Bergen Symphony Orchestra, Scottish and Swedish Chamber Orchestras, and Stanford Lively Arts, California. She is also working on a project with saxophonist Branford Marsalis, who has recently performed two of her concertos.
Phil Hind became interested in medieval English when he discovered a book of 14th century poetry on the top shelf of his school library and found that many common issues and preoccupations travel easily across centuries. He studied English at Cambridge, then taught in schools and colleges, with further studies in literacy and the role of the arts in education before working as education adviser, consultant and manager in schools and prisons. This is his first collaboration with Sally Beamish.
Jonathan Best was born in Kent and educated at St John's College' Cambridge and at the Guildhall School of Music. He made his operatic debut in 1983 with the Welsh National Opera' and has since sung with all the major British Opera companies. Engagements abroad include appearances at the Salzburg Festival' Maggio Musicale-Florence' Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie' Le Châtelet in Paris and in New York. He appears regularly in concert throughout the United Kingdom and abroad' has appeared at the Proms and has made many recordings for both television and radio.
Recent roles include Garibaldo Rodelinda' Zuniga Carmen' Alcindoro La Boheme and Valens Theodora at Glyndebourne' Drunken Poet The Fairy Queen for English National Opera and at the BBC Proms' Des Grieux Manon' Barbe-bleue Ariane et Barbe-bleue' Sparafucile Rigoletto' Don Alfonso Così fan tutte' Leporello Don Giovanni' Bottom A Midsummer Night's Dream' Villabella The Thieving Magpie' Speaker The Magic Flute' Bishop Caritas' Sirocco L'étoile' King The Love for Three Oranges' Radcliffe Billy Budd and Rambaldo La rondine at Opera North' Don Cassandro La Finta Semplice and Don Annibale Il Campanello at Buxton' the world premiere of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' opera Mr Emmet Takes a Walk with Psappha' Don Alfonso at Grange Park Opera and Garsington and Doctor Wozzeck and Rocco Fidelio with BOCO.
Recent engagements abroad include Pitkin On the Town at Chatelet in Paris' Don Pedro Béatrice et Bénèdict with Netherlands Opera' Valens in Strasbourg' King Ariodante Zoroastro Orlando and Arkel Pelleas and Mellisande with Opera Theatre Company in Dublin' Drunken Poet in Barcelona' Antinoo Il Ritorno D'Ulisse in Patria for Teatro Sao Carlo' Lisbon' Father Trulove The Rake's Progress in Israel and Count Robinson in Sir Jonathan Miller's production of Il Matrimonio Segreto at The Brooklyn Academy of Music' USA.
Recent UK engagements include Quince A Midsummer Night's Dream at Covent Garden' Kramer Tangier Tattoo with Glyndebourne on Tour' Bartolo The Marriage of Figaro and Rambaldo at Opera North. Ralph The Fair Maid of Perth' Walter Raleigh Roberto Devereux Oscar Bluebeard Pancratius The Poacher and Harapha Samson all at Buxton Opera Festival' Leone Tamerlano with Scottish Opera' and Foreman of the Mill Jenufa at Opera Holland Park.
Recent and future plans include: Judge Sweeney Todd at the Châtelet' title role Saul Buxton Festival' roles in The Adventures of Mr Broucek at Opera North and Scottish Opera' Uberto La Serva Padrona with the Gabrieli Consort touring Norway' Quince A Midsummer Night's Dream and Speaker The Magic Flute for Garsington Opera' Gubetta Lucrezia Borgia and Sancho Panza Die Hochzeit des Camacho both at Buxton Festival' 3rd Seller / Dignitary The Portrait' Achilla Giulio Cesare for Opera North and Bartolo The Marriage of Figaro for English National Opera.
Elaine Tyler-Hall Director
Elaine Tyler-Hall started her career as a dancer, and then worked as a dance teacher, choreographer and Benesh Movement notator, subsequently assisting choreographers and directors on dance and opera productions. She still enjoys the opportunity to choreograph - work that fits in well with her career as a director. She has also worked on a great number of TV productions and films, including the very popular Shakespeare in Love. As assistant and staff director she has worked for many opera companies: Royal Opera House Covent Garden, English National Opera, Scottish Opera, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Bayerisches Staatsoper Munich, Opernhaus Zurich, and the Kammeroper Vienna, and her own choreography in opera includes La fedelta premiata (Garsington), The Jacobin (Scottish Opera), The Greek Passion (ROH) and Benvenuto Cellini (Zurich Opernhaus). Her work has taken her to New York to assist on the revival of ENO's production of Orpheus and Eurydice (New York City Opera), to Venice, Milan, Seville and Tel Aviv for The Cunning Little Vixen (La Fenice, La Scala, Teatro de la Maestranza and Israeli Opera), to Boston for Orfeo (Handel and Haydn Society) and twice to Zurich Opernhaus for Semele with Cecilia Bartoli. As well as her free-lance work, she is currently a full-time staff director for English National Opera. She has directed La finta giardiniera for the Kammeroper in Vienna. For Psappha, the Manchester-based contemporary music group, she has directed The Soldier's Tale, two music theatre pieces by Peter Maxwell Davies: Vesalii Icones, premiering in Buenos Aires and The Lighthouse which celebrated his 75th birthday at the St Magnus Festival in Orkney, and a Berstein programme of Trouble in Tahiti and Arias and Barcarolles. She has directed and choreographed Eugene Ongein and La traviata for Riverside opera, Gluck's Orpheus and Eurydice for Blackheath Halls, and Into the Woods for the final year Theatre Studies students at Northumbria University. In the past year she has been busy reviving productions at the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, Theater an der Wien in Vienna, Teatro Real in Madrid and RSAMD in Glasgow.
Marc Rosette Lighting Designer
Marc Rosette graduated from Croydon College's Theatre Design course in 1996, specialising in lighting design. Since then his extensive career has taken him across Europe and the UK. In the past 10 years he has mainly worked in opera and ballet for both the Royal Opera House and English National Opera, collaborating with leading directors and designers from around the world. Design credits include Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti (Great Hall, Lancaster; Buxton Festival; Queen Elizabeth Hall); Bernstein's Arias and Barcarolles (Great Hall Lancaster, Buxton Festival, Queen Elizabeth Hall) Ian Wilson's Humpty Dumpty (Great Hall, Lancaster) Orpheus, La Bohème (Blackheath Halls), The Lighthouse (Great Hall, Lancaster; St Magnus Festival, Orkney; Buxton Festival), Double Tongue (Border Crossings, UK and European tour), Handel in London, The Magic Flute (ENO Bayliss), Time Of My Life, Just Between Ourselves, Waiting for Micky (Theatre Colwyn).
Psappha, Manchester's new music ensemble and one of the UK's top contemporary music groups, was formed in 1991 by its Artistic Director Tim Williams and specialises in the performance of music by living composers and that of the 20th and 21st centuries. The ensemble has an extensive and varied repertoire of hundreds of works and a reputation for technical assurance and interpretive flair.
Psappha has appeared throughout the UK, featuring regularly at most of the country's major music festivals, including the BBC Proms, in special Henze and Maxwell Davies portrait series and in the recent Bernstein Project at London's Southbank Centre, and in a residency at the St. Magnus Festival, Orkney in 2009. To celebrate its landmark 20th anniversary in 2011, Psappha has lined up an exciting and diverse array of commissions from John Casken, Sally Beamish, Gordon McPherson, Ben Foskett and Ian Wilson.
It has made highly successful tours to North and South America, Australia, Belgium, France, Holland, Ireland, Jersey, Portugal and Spain and earlier this year appears in the United States as part of a residency at Princeton University. Having made a number of recordings on various labels, Psappha launched its own CD label in 2004 with Maxwell Davies's Eight Songs for a Mad King and Miss Donnithorne's Maggot. The most recent release, Busted Micro Shorts, features music by Steven Mackey.
As Contemporary Ensemble in Residence at the University of Manchester, Psappha encourages the breaking down of barriers between artistic and educational experiences, inspiring creativity and the exchange of ideas with students through interactive and collaborative projects. Autumn 2010 saw the launch of 'Composition Lab', an online resource (with more than 100 films) designed to accompany the composition element of GCSE and A-level music. Tireless champions of the music of today, Psappha is continually seeking to develop new audiences, breaking fresh ground in its innovative development of the digital dissemination of its work through free-to-view films of live performances on its website.
- Alasdair Nicolson (Born 1961) - Punch!
- Sally Beamish (born 1956) - The Sins
- Ben Foskett (born 1977)
- Claude Vivier (1948-83) - Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele?
- Peter Maxwell Davies (b.1934) - The Lighthouse (Act 1)
- Peter Maxwell Davies (b.1934) - The Lighthouse (Act 2)
- Claude Vivier (1948-83) - Journal
- Anthony Gilbert introduces his work - Nine or Ten Osannas, Op.10
- Anthony Gilbert (born 1934) - Nine or Ten Osannas, Op.10
- John Casken (born 1949) - Winter Reels
- Edward Cowie (born 1943) - Psappha Portraits (world premiere)
- Claude Vivier (1948-83) - Et je reverrai cette ville étrange
- György Ligeti (1923 - 2006) - Aventures and Nouvelles Aventures
- György Kurtág (b.1926) Signs, Games and Messages
- Claude Vivier (1948-83) - Shiraz
- György Ligeti (1923-2006) arr. Elgar Howarth - Mysteries of the Macabre
- Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) arr. after Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) - Das Lied von der Erde
- György Ligeti (1923-2006) - Chamber Concerto
- György Kurtág (born 1926) - Scenes from a Novel, Op.19
- Larry Goves (b.1980) - Four Letter Words
- Steven Mackey (born 1956) - Five Animated Shorts
- Gordon McPherson (born 1965) - Celeste Unborne
- Leonard Bernstein (1918 - 1990) - Trouble in Tahiti
- Ian Wilson (b.1964) - Humpty Dumpty (world premiere)
- Camden Reeves (b.1974) - Nanomia Cara
- Philip Grange (b.1956) - Tiers of Time
Watch:Psappha supporting young composers
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- Emma Wilde (Born 1991) - Janus
- David Wishart (born 1991) - Soft Rain [...eyes shut] (world premiere)
- Sebastian Huckle (born 1990) - The Glass (world premiere)
- Timothy Langston (born 1990) - Ménage à trois (world premiere)
- Leo Geyer (Born 1992) - Secrets in the Oak (world premiere)
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- Jae Hong Lee - Argument (world premiere)
- Marc Tweedie (born 1986)- Gréasaîn
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- Yvonne Eccles - Multiple Infection (world premiere)
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- Soojung Park - Looking over the Land (world premiere)
- Mauricio Pauly - La Prisa Educable
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