Following the 2002 premiere of Nicholas Maw’s opera Sophie’s Choice in London’s Royal Opera House, one of the most highly praised facets of the work was Maw’s sumptuous orchestral writing.
It will be wonderful news to orchestra planners everywhere, then, that Maw has now created a 22-minute suite from the opera. Concert Suite from Sophie’s Choice was given its premiere on 24 April 2004 as part of the Gala Concert celebrating the reopening of the newly renovated Peabody Institute and Conservatory in Baltimore (Maw is Professor of Composition there). The Peabody SO was conducted by Hajime Teri Murai. An optional passage in the score allows for mezzo-soprano to join the orchestra for a 4-minute aria. At the premiere this role was taken by Elizabeth Healy.
‘The opera Sophie's Choice by Nicholas Maw, one of the luminaries on Peabody's teaching staff, where it opened at London's Royal Opera House in 2002 affected audiences deeply and attracted the attention of other companies. Productions are slated for Berlin and Vienna in the fall of 2005... Maw's Concert Suite from Sophie's Choice deserves to have a life of its own. The first performance on Saturday by the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hajime Teri Murai, left a strong impression. From the prayerful string chords at the start to the soft, high, slowly evaporating notes at the end, the suite serves up considerable tension and emotion in a richly textured musical language. If you knew nothing about the William Styron novel that inspired the opera, you could still sense the pain, love and cruelty that drive the story.’
The Sun (Tim Smith) 26 April 2004
'The fete ushered in a gala concert by the Peabody Symphony Orchestra, highlighted by a charged first performance of Nicholas Maw's Concert Suite from Sophie's Choice, his acclaimed opera that received its world premiere at London's Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in 2002. Under conductor Hajime Teri Murai, the ensemble eloquently lent the suite an impassioned sense of foreboding, appropriate to Maw's edgy shifts of tonal dissonance and texture; the climax seemed a shadowy transfiguration'.
The Washington Post (Cecelia Porter) 27 April 2004
'Maw personifies a new breed of composer. Neither aridly abstract nor sentimentally nostalgic, his work challenges the modern listener in the heart as well as the head'.
Baltimore, April 2004