The View South – 12th May 2022

Simon Holt
The Sower Manchester premiere, Psappha commission

Aaron Parker
51°12’N/0°55’W–080115

Rylan Gleave
supine (it lay) World premiere

Bethan Morgan-Williams
Voices Go With You World premiere, Psappha commission

Mark-Anthony Turnage
Slide Stride

Conrad Marshall flute  |  Dov Goldberg clarinet
Benjamin Powell piano  |  Tim Williams percussion/cimbalom
Benedict Holland & Catherine Yates violins  |  Kim Becker viola  |  Jennifer Langridge cello

Tonight’s concert will last around 70 minutes with no interval, ending around 8.10pm.

 

Antonio Machado’s short, elegant poem Noviembre 1913 captures the essence of the rural Andalusian landscape that this much-loved Spanish writer called home. Composed especially for Psappha by acclaimed composer Simon Holt, The Sower pays homage to the poem, the poet and the land that shaped them both. It’s one of two new Psappha commissions on tonight’s programme (rescheduled from Friday 4 February), the other being a new work composed by Bethan Morgan-Williams in honour of outgoing Artistic Director Tim Williams.

Also this evening, a world premiere from young Scottish composer Rylan Gleave, plus two pieces Psappha has made its own: Aaron Parker’s atmospheric travelogue through the Southern English countryside, and an electrifying tribute to American stride piano pioneer James P Johnson by Psappha’s Patron Mark-Anthony Turnage.


 Simon Holt The Sower World premiere, Psappha commission

The Sower – for alto flute, piano, cello and cimbalom – is derived from November 1913, a poem by Antonio Machado. I have written two other pieces that use this poem as a starting point: Surcos, for orchestra; and Cloud Shadow, a chamber piece.

Noviembre 1913

Un año más. El sembrador va echando

la semilla en los surcos de la tierra.

Dos lentas yuntas aran,

mientras pasan las nubes cenicientas

ensombreciendo el campo,

las pardas sementeras,

los grises olivares. Por el fondo

del valle del río el agua turbia lleva.

Tiene Cazorla nieve,

y Mágina, tormenta,

su montera, Aznaitín. Hacia Granada,

montes con sol, montes de sol y piedra.

 

One year on. The sower casts seed into the furrows of earth.

Two slow oxen plough,

whilst ashen clouds pass overhead, overshadowing the land,

the brown, sown earth,

the grey olive groves. In the depths of the river valley,

the river flows, muddy.

Cazorla has snow, and Mágina, storms,

Aznaitín its cloth cap.

Turning to Granada,

sunny mountains, mountains of sun and stone.

[Translation: Simon Holt]

 

I discovered the poem on one of several bronze plaques set up to commemorate Machado on the walkway along the outskirts of the town of Baeza in southern Spain. Machado moved there after his wife died, and taught French in the town. In the poem, he is essentially describing the astonishing landscape.

– Simon Holt

 

 

Simon Holt was born in Bolton, Lancashire on 21 February, 1958. Shortly before achieving a diploma in composition from the Royal Northern College of Music, where he studied with Anthony Gilbert from 1978 to 1982, he received a commission from the London Sinfonietta, which became Kites (1983). He was soon firmly established with a series of commissions and fruitful collaborations not only with the Sinfonietta, but also with the Nash Ensemble and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, resulting in pieces such as eco-pavan (1998), Sparrow Night (1989) and Lilith (1990) respectively. Inspired by Messiaen, Xenakis and Feldman as well as visual artists such as Goya, Giacometti and Brâncusi, his music is innately dramatic and impulsive in nature. His output is diverse, consisting of chamber music, concertos, songs, opera, orchestral and piano music.

From 2000 onwards, Holt has written several concertos and orchestral pieces, including the percussion concerto, a table of noises (2007), for Colin Currie. He was Composer in Association with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales from 2008 to 2014, working closely with the conductor Thierry Fischer on pieces such as Troubled Light (2008) for orchestra and Morpheus Wakes (2011), a flute concerto written for Emmanuel Pahud, both for the BBC Proms. Previously, he had been commissioned to write two orchestral pieces; Syrensong (1987), his first orchestral piece, written for the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the viola concerto, walking with the river’s roar (1991), for Nobuko Imai and the BBC Philharmonic.

Recent commissions include the orchestral piece, Surcos (2016), for Sir Simon Rattle and the Berliner Philharmoniker and co-commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra who gave the UK première with the conductor Ilan Volkov and the basset clarinet concerto, Joy Beast (2016), for Mark Simpson and the BBC Philharmonic as part of the New Music Biennial 2017. In his 60th birthday year he was a featured composer at the 2018 Aldeburgh Festival, which included the world premières of Llanto (para las chumberas) and his 4th Quartet: Cloud House. For the past twenty years, he has done much of his writing in southern Spain, in his home close to Granada. Simon Holt’s music has been recorded on several record labels, most extensively with NMC. Holt is currently Professor of Composition at the Royal College of Music.


Aaron Parker 51°12’N/0°55’W–080115

Etched into my psyche is the memory of being stood on the banks of the River Orwell in Suffolk at the hour of day in late autumn when the light fades and the hues of the land are transformed. The sounds of wading birds and over-wintering geese are heard mixing in the air with the industrial clankings and grindings from a dock in the far distance. With the changing light, the horizon resembles a silhouetted strand of ambiguous interconnected forms, broken only by the occasional glimmer of lights from a town barely visible two or three miles across the shore. I do not believe music depicts. However, while making this piece, I was continually haunted by this experience, and it would be inaccurate to suggest it did not somehow inform my writing. The title, incidentally, contains two pieces of information: the location and the date of the completion of the composition. The location is given in abridged latitude and longitude readings, while the date is written numerically. It is my hope that each listener will be able to hear the piece in their own way. I would like to thank Tim Williams and Psappha for the invitation to write this piece, and for their commitment to the project

– Aaron Parker

 

Aaron Parker is a composer who lives partly in Hampshire (where he teaches music in a school) and partly in Suffolk. He studied at RNCM (2009–13) with Gary Carpenter and Larry Goves. He listens to almost anything but particularly enjoys The Blues, Portishead, Enrico Malatesta, John Cage, Chris Watson, PJ Harvey, Giuseppe Ielasi, Zimoun and Brian Eno. He has realised musical projects in collaboration with ddmmyy, Slip Discs, Psappha, Dave Bainbridge, Jenny Dyson, London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Cassia Quartet, Stenhammar Quartet, the BBC, Manchester Camerata and Sound and Music, among others.


 Rylan Gleave supine (it lay) World premiere

supine – lying face upwards – failing to protest /as a result of/ moral weakness – rotation of the forearm and hand so that the palm faces upward

/

weaker

/

I lay

/

touching my palm/ defenceless

/

Rylan Gleave

 

Rylan Gleave is a Leith-based composer and vocalist born in 1997. His compositions have been praised as ‘haunting’ by The Herald, and ‘rapturous’ by The Scotsman, who named him ‘One to Watch’ 2021, describing him as ‘one of the brightest lights in Scotland’s new music scene’. He is currently developing his practice on the Royal Philharmonic Society Composers programme, Sound and Music’s New Voices programme, with JACK Quartet as part of JACK Studio NYC, and on Oxford Contemporary Music’s BOOM residency with collaborator Simone Seales. He graduated from his MMus Degree at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in July 2021 with The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland Composition Award and The Craig Armstrong Prize.


Bethan Morgan-Williams Voices Go With You World premiere, Psappha commission

A still, serene landscape endures disruption and restlessness. The opposing states must work together to soothe the terror that lies beneath, hidden. How did we get to the auditorium? There is a concert taking place, and there are four musicians on stage. Isn’t it strange how we instantly transport ourselves from inside to out?
Whatever today’s inside might be. Now, we must play the role we came to play. We must stay with the time of this clockwork music. The musicians can move, dance even. But the audience sits still. Too still? What a dark and menacing thought – how did we come to question such things?

Voices Go With You is a tone poem based on lines from Salt, a recent assembly of poems by David Harsent. It is a commemorative piece not just for the ensemble but also for Tim Williams, who will step down as Artistic Director of Psappha after 30 years at the helm at the end of this season.

– Bethan Morgan-Williams

 

Bethan Morgan-Williams (b. 1992) is a composer who writes quirky, rhythmically-intricate music. Described as ‘marvellously oblique and obscure’ (5against4) while being ‘rooted in something ancient and folky’ (The Telegraph), Bethan’s music finds motivation in the apogee of musical performance. Current projects include a solo basset clarinet piece for Carl Rosman; and the making of a fixed-tape version of Gêmdis. Current preoccupations include the use of text as a means of generating rhythmic content; and the effects of revisiting material interactions on the substructure of ‘finished’ pieces.


 Mark-Anthony Turnage Slide Stride

Introducing this piano quintet, which he wrote for the Nash Ensemble in 2002, Turnage explained: ‘I don’t like virtuosity for the sake of it, but after writing True Life Stories [for Leif Ove Andsnes] I realised that players like a challenge, so I thought I’d set myself a technical exercise and write a piece that’s technically hard to play as opposed to musically hard to grasp.’ The result is music about as far as possible from the Romantic splendours with which the genre is associated, the technical difficulties being largely those of conflicting edgy rhythms going mostly at a fair lick. ‘Stride’ here is the piano style introduced by James P Johnson in Harlem around 1920 to liven up what was by then an aging ragtime tradition.

 

Mark-Anthony Turnage is among the most significant creative figures to have emerged in British music in the last three decades. He has composed under residencies and associations with the City of Birmingham, BBC and Chicago Symphony Orchestras, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and English National Opera, and collaborated with musicians including Håkan Hardenberger, Joe Lovano, John Scofield, Ensemble Modern and London Sinfonietta. His stage works include Anna Nicole for the Royal Opera, The Silver Tassie for ENO, Trespass for the Royal Ballet and Undance for Sadler’s Wells. His music is published by Boosey & Hawkes. Awarded a CBE in 2015, he has been Psappha’s Patron since 2018.