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Programme Notes

It is well known that Toru Takemitsu always conceived the title of a piece before composing it. In May 1988, between rehearsals for the first performance of Tree Line in London, Takemitsu and I took a long walk in Regent’s Park. One of the things we talked about was Peter Serkin’s recital programme composed entirely of new pieces, planned for the following year, to which we had both been invited to contribute. ‘I already have title,’ he said. ‘Prayer Bell.’ I expressed by appreciation of this wonderfully evocative starting point, and afterwards tried to picture what it might draw from him. But Takemitsu’s piece for Peter Serkin’s recital turned out in the event to be Les Yeux Clos II. Some years later, talking about titles again, I asked him what happened to Prayer Bell. ‘Prayer Bell maybe too difficult,’ was the response this time. Following his death in 1996, I spent much time trying to imagine a Prayer Bell in memory of Toru, and came to the conclusion that he was probably right – so what eventually emerged during three days in Tokyo last September is a Prayer Bell Sketch, recollections and rearrangements of a few simple bell sounds which, to me, resonate with memories of a dear friend and wonderful composer. Prayer Bell Sketch was commissioned by Ms Masako Okamura and Mr Motoyuki Nakagawa in memory of Toru Takemitsu, and was first performed by Peter Serkin, for whom it was written, at the new Takemitsu Memorial Concert Hall in Tokyo Opera City on 22 September 1997.

© Oliver Knussen

Prayer Bell Sketch

Boulez Saal (Berlin, Germany)

Tamara Stefanovich

Prayer Bell Sketch

New Mexico Museum of Art (Santa Fe, NM, USA)

Benjamin Hochman

Prayer Bell Sketch

Gruta de Lurdes (Arenys de Mar, Spain)

Pedro Borges

Prayer Bell Sketch

Royal Academy of Music (London, United Kingdom)

Musicians from the Royal Academy of Music, Inis Oírr Asano

Prayer Bell Sketch

George Benjamin - Through the Night

BBC Radio 3 (United Kingdom)

Mahler Chamber Orchestra, George Benjamin