Anderson's 'Heaven is Shy of Earth' revived at the Barbican

Anderson's 'Heaven is Shy of Earth' revived at the Barbican
Julian Anderson’s Heaven is Shy of Earth for mezzo-soprano, SATB choir and orchestra, based on poetry by Emily Dickinson was a huge success at its 2006 premiere, with the Sunday Times describing it as ‘a powerful, beautiful and curious work’ and the Guardian praising its ‘shimmering soundworld’.

The world premiere of the completed version (now including a Gloria), was premiered on Friday 26 November 2010 at the Barbican in London. Mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley performed with the BBC Symphony Orchestra & Chorus under the baton of Oliver Knussen.

‘[Anderson] now musters such masterly compositional techniques – wonderfully fierce choral writing (sung here by the BBC Symphony Chorus), operatic anguish for a game mezzo-soprano (Susan Bickley, very game), a fascinating (and very symbolic) mix of conventional equal-temperament tuning and the natural harmonic series, and the most transcendental use of the flugelhorn since Mahler – that he grips even when he puzzles.  Encased in plaster I applauded the radio.’
The Times (Richard Morrison), 29 November 2010

‘The real meat in the programme came in the second half, with the premiere of the revised version of Julian Anderson's choral work Heaven Is Shy of Earth, which sets parts of the Mass, Psalm 84 and poems by Emily Dickinson, and was first heard at the 2006 Proms. Since then Anderson has extended it with a further movement, Gloria (with Bird), which highlights the piece's intention to reflect and celebrate the natural world.
Anderson's command of the orchestral medium is consistently on display. Layered through with the strands of the choral writing, consummately realised by the BBC Symphony Chorus, the result is a sumptuous and perfectly structured score that is immediate in its impact yet subtle in the fineness of its surface allure. Susan Bickley was the confident soloist, conveying the bulk of the Dickinson extracts with determination.’

The Guardian (George Hall), 29 November 2010

Click here to find out more about the concert.