On 17 November musicians from Ensemble intercontemporain premiere ever-weaver, a new work for cello and piano by Lisa Illean at Paris’ Cité de la musique.  The 12-minute work was commissioned by the Ensemble intercontemporain, and will be performed by Hidéki Nagano (piano) and Renaud Déjardin (cello, doubling scordatura cello), in a programme of music by George Crumb, Olivier Messiaen, and André Jolivet and György Ligeti.

Illean’s piece takes its formal inspiration from the fragile, beautiful webs of the orb-weaver spider. Twenty-one musical ‘threads’ are woven and re-woven horizontally and vertically across chords and pleated lines through nine spiralling cycles; seven different sonorities also inform the structure of the work. At points Illean asks the pianist to reach behind the keyboard and pluck the strings, aiming for a delicate yet resonant sound. Illean calls for a second cello using a scordatura tuning, which allows the player to explore more remote partials than with their other conventionally tuned cello.

Illean says of ever-weaver,

Making this piece allowed a quiet turning over and knitting-together of sound-threads in my mind throughout the day…The manner of weaving is constantly evolving: presentations – for example, shifts in tempo or presence – change quickly and sometimes mid-course, as if resolving a new image in the eye, or as if skipping between glimpses of different continuously existing surfaces. In the final section, the now familiar piano sonorities are almost stillstanding.

Illean discusses the piece in an interview with Michèle Tosi here

On 2 November Explore Ensemble and soprano Juliet Fraser gave the UK premiere of an ensemble version of Illean’s 14-minute setting of Gerard Manley Hopkins A through-grown earth. It is scored for soprano, bass flute, clarinet, violin, viola, and cello, with pre-recorded sounds; the original version, premiered by Fraser in 2018 at LSO St. Luke’s, was for soprano and electronics.  It is programmed alongside Oliver Leith’s Me Hollywood (2020), for six players and TV/tape, as well as a world premiere from Angharad Davies commissioned by Explore Ensemble and Lawrence Dunn’s Set of Four.