'A ten-minute masterpiece that deserves to be performed a lot more.’ The Times
Julian Anderson’s 1996 work for strings, Past Hymns, was broadcast live from Snape Maltings earlier this month, with Ryan Wigglesworth conducting the strings of the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
A welter of polyphonic lines and cross rhythms, the 10-minute work was inspired by a dramatic black-and-white photograph by Michael Serota of the Jewish cemetery in Prague: a chaos of beautifully carved old tombstones almost tumbling over each other in semi-disorder. It’s a bold and vibrant work that has travelled the word, described by its composer as ‘music of resistance and protest’.
The concert, which also included music by Ryan Wigglesworth, can be heard again here.
‘[An] Eastern European atmosphere was present, too, in Past Hymns. The piece is inspired by a photo of the Jewish cemetery in Prague, but Anderson weaves recognisably Jewish modes into musical reminiscences of other persecuted religious communities. If that seems a bit contrived, the result sounds anything but. For the most part it is a tremendously energetic, syncopated and intricately contrapuntal dance, bookended by Penderecki-style pile-ups, hair-raising in their intensity. In this superbly prepared and turbo-charged performance, it came across as a ten-minute masterpiece that deserves to be performed a lot more.’
The Times (Richard Morrison), 24 May 2021