Lisa Illean’s arcing, stilling, bending, gathering will receive its UK premiere from Britten Sinfonia on 11 May 2024 at the Barbican’s Milton Court. The 19-minute piece for piano, string ensemble of 12 players and pre-recorded sounds premiered on 21 April 2023 at the Melbourne Recital Centre; it was commissioned by UKARIA, Finding Our Voice and Britten Sinfonia.

A film of the piece from pianist Aura Go and musicians from the Australian National Academy of Music available to watch online. Watch other performances of Illean’s work and discover more about her music on the Finding Our Voice Lisa Illean playlist here.

arcing, stilling, bending, gathering opens sparsely and quietly. The ensemble is arranged into smaller groups – satellites of sound heard only in part. Glacial chords and floating tapestries of sound mingle, with a constantly shifting sense of focus. The ensemble of 12 strings is arranged into three string quartets: two use the standard lineup, but the third consists of double bass and violins/viola that use unique non-tempered tunings. Likewise, Illean calls the pianist to strum the open strings of a scordatura guitar. A film exploring the creation of the piece, with contributions from Illean, is available to watch here.

Illean describes the piece as “a very personal contemplation of the moments of kinship and tenderness that balance the immensity of the world we inhabit.” It is partly inspired by Illean’s recollection of two films by Sergei Eisenstein, in which fleeting reflections appear on shop windows; Illean’s music elaborates these ideas of superimposed transparent layers that shift, blur and transform.

Britten Sinfonia will also premiere Chansons – Illean's reworking of two songs by Gilles Binchois for 12 strings: Amours merchi and Adieu, adieu, mon joileux souvenir. The latter second diffracts and collages Binchois’ exquisite descending lines in cascades, creating a sonorous recollection (a literal ‘re-membering’) of this song. The string ensemble for this adaptation is dispersed into three string quartets that augment and illuminate one another. 

Along with arcing, stilling, bending, gathering, they appear as part of a programme exploring the music of Carlo Gesualdo with the Marian Consort, which also features Brett Dean’s Carlo (1997) for voices and strings. Dean previously conducted the UK premiere of Illean’s Land’s End for chamber orchestra with the BBC Symphony on 1 April 2016, as well as a performance of the piece with musicians from the Australian National Academy of Music in 2018, broadcast on ABC.