There has been fulsome praise from the UK press for the world premiere performances of Jonny Greenwood's new 18-minute orchestral piece, Water. It is the result of a commission from the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and was launched by them on their recent European tour.
'The music took its cue from the final couplet of Philip Larkin’s poem Water, which describes a glass of water in which “many-angled light would congregate endlessly”.The piece caught that image beautifully. Time and again a little melodic phrase cascaded from the heights of the violins down to the depths of the basses, touching on different harmonies along the way. The twanging drone could have weighed heavy, but the music tugged away from it in interesting ways. At one point, a surprisingly emphatic hammered idea launched in one or two instruments, appeared to lose heart, and then later returned in full flood. All this shows that Greenwood is developing a cunning sense of form, to go with the sharp ear for harmony and texture he’s always had.'The Telegraph (Ivan Hewett), 5 October 2014
'In commissioning Jonny Greenwood to work with them, the ACO and leader/director Richard Tognetti showed their openness to experimentation. The Radiohead guitarist had clearly drawn on their fluidity of movement for the piece that emerged. That movement was reflected, too, in the final title, Water, from Philip Larkin’s poem in The Whitsun Weddings. The effects of light bouncing off water created a distinct aura. Once again, strings were wrapped around pivotal instruments: two flutes and two Indian tanpura, the smaller of which was played by Greenwood himself, with Tognetti leaning in to deliver concertante violin lines. The tanpuras’ low, gently plucked droning gave the piece – in five interconnected sections – a constant deep resonance. Featuring amplified upright piano and keyboard, synthesising the sound of glockenspiel and celeste (nodding to the soundworld of Messiaen, yet without the use of ondes martenot), Greenwood’s soundscape was organic and persuasive. The rhythmic ostinati and the shimmering rise and cascade of scales, with rippling chromatic colour, created a more dynamic effect. Greenwood bowed as modestly as a novice; in fact, he is anything but.'The Guardian (Rian Evans), 8 October 2014
The ACO present the work on their Australian tour next month, and then given 10 performances in the USA in early 2015.
Video interview with Jonny Greenwood & Richard Tognetti, and rehearsal footage here: