Henze Total Immersion - Encouraging the next generation...
The best aspect of yesterday's BBC R3 Henze day was the quality, variety and number of different events on offer. Of course, the emphasis has been on the music and life of Hans Werner Henze, but it was refreshing (and important) to have a brief opportunity to sample some talent from the next generation of composers.
Taking place in one of the Barbican foyers before the evening concert and attracting an enthusiastic crowd of attentive listeners, this was the climax of the BBC Symphony Orchestra Learning and Guildhall of Music and Drama Composition Project. Three postgraduate composers were asked to write a piece for octet, under the guidance of Julian Anderson, Professor of Composition and Composer-in-Residence at the Guildhall School. Each of the pieces took some inspiration from topics covered in the songs of Henze's cycle Voices (see earlier blog) and the composers had the added incentive (challenge?) of writing not only for fellow student musicians from the Guildhall, but also members of the BBCSO - Peter Davis (clarinet), Tamsy Kaner (cello), Nicholas Korth (horn), and violinist Anna Smith. With the other instruments of the ensemble being viola, flute, harp and percussion, I felt it offered particularly interesting and challenging options to experiment with orchestration and sonorities.
The three composers featured were Alastair Putt with Impetus, David Ibbett who composed Albion Trails and Matther Kaner's Octet. Conductor Richard Baker provided confident and precise direction from the podium. I enjoyed listening to all three works, but particularly appreciated David Ibbett's Albion Trails. Having spent the whole day immersed in Henze's music, it was revealing to compare how the master can manage to say so much with different combinations of only a few instruments, whereas one often got the impression from these student compositions that everyone was almost trying too hard to use all the resources of the instruments available. Sometimes less is far, far more.I'm sure that the composers appreciated having the chance to work with and get feedback from the professionals of the BBCSO during this most worthwhile collaboration between the orchestra and the Guildhall.