On 11 March Ensemble Diagonal, conducted by Marcus Weiss, performed Jonathan Harvey’s final work for ensemble Sringāra Chaconne (2008) at the Museum Tinguely, Basel. Sringāra Chaconne is full of ravishing, glittering textures conjured from four gentle chords which rise slowly through many transmutations – a typical example of the composer’s fusion of Western musical forms with ideas drawn from Eastern philosophy. There are several more objective events which repeat – like the chaconne of the title – whilst Sringāra is an Indian rasa (‘flavour/mood’) signifying a love-essence which, according to Hindu belief, is at the beginning of all art.

The 14-minute work was recorded in 2016 by ensemble Musikfabrik. Its exponents have included Riot Ensemble and Aaron Holloway-Nahum, the London Sinfonietta and Thierry Fischer, Prague Modern Ensemble conducted by Baldur Brönnimann, Ensemble intercontemporain with Enno Poppe, and Israel Contemporary Players conducted by Zsolt Nagy. It was commissioned by Lorraine Vaillancourt and the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, on their occasion of their 20th birthday, and premiered in Paris in 2009; the group also gave the French and Belgian premieres of Harvey’s Bhakti in 1991 and 1992, as well as recording the work in 1996.

In March 2024 Bhakti received its 100th performance from a chamber orchestra of students who had taken part in 2022’s inaugural New Music for Young Performers Course held at the Music Academy in Bydgoszcz, Poland. They toured the epic 50-minute work for 15 players and tape, under the direction of Szymon Bywalec, to venues in Warsaw, Bydgoszcz and Łódz.

Bhakti (1982) was commissioned by IRCAM and is cast in twelve short movements. A modern classic, its performers have included Ensemble intercontemporain, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Modern, Le Balcon, Remix Ensemble, Ictus, and Nieuw Ensemble. A quotation from the Rig Veda is appended to the end of each of its movements – Sanskrit hymns written four thousand years ago. “They are keys to a transcendent consciousness”, Harvey writes.

The tape element of the work consists of sounds drawn the instrumental ensemble transformed and mixed by computer. In the piece it has numerous functions: dialogue, transformation, memory, anticipation, ‘simultaneous translation’ and of reaching beyond the instrumental scale to a more universal dimension. As Tom Service noted of Bhakti in the Guardian: “technology is a way of extending the reach of acoustic instruments into other realms of space and time, to literally and metaphorically go beyond physical boundaries”.