On 6 November the Basel Sinfonietta travel across the border to give the German premiere of Julian Anderson’s 1998 orchestral work The Stations of the Sun in Burghof Lörrach, Germany, conducted by Baldur Brönnimann.
The Stations of the Sun was first performed at the 1998 BBC Proms by Andrew Davis and the BBC Symphony Orchestra and received many subsequent international performances from conductors such as Martyn Brabbins, Valdimir Jurowski, Oliver Knussen, Sakari Oramo, and Ilan Volkov. It has been played by numerous world-class ensembles including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and Philadelphia Orchestra. Jurowski recorded the piece in 2016, following the first recording of the piece from Oliver Knussen and the BBC SO in 2006.
The work is inspired by anthropologist Ronald Hutton’s study of the same name, which explores the relationship of rituals and customs to yearly and seasonal cycles. There are the trappings of celebration and evocation: bells, drums, brass fanfares, and riotous dances, as the orchestra moves through four distinct phases, plus a coda, in 17 minutes.
The piece begins with an exuberant polyphonic dance in the woodwinds, from which much subsequent material is derived. The following slow movement, mainly for strings, is a disguised form of the Alleluia 'Adorabo' plainchant. The piece then moves through fast dances for woodwind and percussion, before breaking into an ecstatic melody in the trumpets in the work’s central plateau. The piece concludes with a sudden 'zoom' at that denies the music any certainty or closure, suggesting instead the beginning of something new cut off before it is fully revealed.
‘A glittering orchestral tone poem… [Anderson] is already revealing himself as a master of the medium.
The Daily Telegraph (Matthew Rye), 22 July 1998
‘A glistening, energetic, rhythmic, dancing piece… overlapping ideas constantly pass in and out of phase, to create a kind of constant collision that sometimes evolves into a shimmer… it is imaginatively, even brilliantly, orchestrated.’
The Boston Globe (Richard Dyer), 21 January 2000