Anna Meredith - Fringeflower (2006)

The overlapping, floating thematic material of this 5-minute chamber orchestra work is light and colourful with a quirky, bluntly obtrusive, feel to it. Meredith gleaned her inspiration from a Charles Rennie Mackintosh watercolour, ‘Butterfly Flower’, and the link is clear: stems and petals in inoffensive colours lie atop one another with no concern with how they might interact. It has a carefree, dreamlike quality to it, which Meredith has astutely carried over into her music. 

 As with the flowers, each instrument type has a clearly defined and individual character. They present their themes with very little commonality, or reaction, yielding a music of multiple discrete layers. Meredith maintains the drive of the piece not by altering harmony or development, but by changing the density, position and frequency of the instruments’ statements, like pushing drawings around on layers of tracing paper.

Instrumentation and perusal score here.


Derek Bermel – Dust Dances (1994)

Dust Dances is a 10-minute orchestral work based on the African gyil music prevalent in northwestern Ghana, southern Burkina Faso, and northeastern Ivory Coast. The gyil is a 14- to 18-key instrument resembling a Western marimba. Tuned slabs of carved mahogany wood are bound with animal hide to a sturdy wooden frame. Each key has its own gourd resonator; crushed and flattened spiders' webs are seared with rubber over holes carved in the gourd, creating a buzzing membrane as the keys are struck.

In Dust Dances, Derek Bermel translates into orchestral idioms a typical session of two gyil players and a drummer, as they string together recreational and funeral songs. More than either African or American music, the piece is a bi-continental hybrid that joins the rhythmic complexity of West African music with the harmonic structure of American concert music.

Keeping true to gyil music, which is always in the same key, the entirety of Dust Dances is in D and employs a pentatonic scale, the tuning the gyil approximates. Several of the gyil's notes fall between the pitches of the Western chromatic scale, and two gyils may differ widely in pitches. To produce the "in-between" notes, Bermel at times calls for two clashing pentatonic modes to be played in different octaves.

Instrumentation and perusal score here.


Tansy Davies – Plumes (2019)

A 5-minute work for chamber orchestra that draws its inspiration from the River Tyne, visible from the concert hall where it made its debut. Plumes is a ‘duet between air and water’, Davies says, and evokes the complex currents of the great river.

It is a confluence of two musical flows: murky undercurrents that provide momentum and rising aerial interjections, represented respectively at the outset by a lugubrious line in contrabassoon, bass clarinet, and double basses, and diaphanous figuration in stratospheric violins. Cloud-like material forms as the two elements become one, before condensing and reforming as deep river currents, then ascending again. The piece for chamber orchestra was commissioned by Royal Northern Sinfonia to mark their 60th anniversary, and received its first performance at Sage Gateshead, now the Glasshouse International Centre for Music, in September 2019, conducted by Giedrė Šlekytė; in 2023 it received its North American premiere from Gustavo Gimeno and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

Instrumentation and perusal score here.


Matthew Hindson - Rave Elation (Schindowski Mix)

Rave-Elation was originally written for performance by the combined forces of Camerata Australia and Camerata Scotland. It uses aspects of popular music as a starting point - especially ‘techno’ music. The 14-minute piece is almost exclusively hedonistic in content – such joyful exuberance has long been a hallmark of Hindson’s music.

The main inspiration for the work comes from dance and rave parties from the 1990s, especially the party-goers’ single-minded indulgence in physical enjoyment. A steady drum beat, simulated and at times reproduced in Rave-Elation by a MIDI drum kit, controls the tempo and the excitement of the dancing crowd. The tempo and beat of Rave-Elation reflect the popular fast mood of this ‘dance’ music.

This arrangement of Rave-Elation was commissioned by Musiktheater im Revier for for their all-Hindson ballet “Veitstanz” choreographed by Bernd Schindowski; first performance was given by Ballett Schindowski, with the Neue Philharmonie NRW and Bernhard Stengel, in Gelsenkirchen on 24 January 2004.

Instrumentation and perusal score here.


Thomas Adès - …but all shall be well (1993)

Adès’ first large-scale orchestral work, …but all shall be well premiered in 1993 with Cambridge University Music Society, whose orchestra was conducted by Stephen Cleobury; its first professional performance followed one year later with Oliver Knussen at the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra at Suntory Hall. Since it has received nearly one hundred performances from the world’s leading orchestras and conductors, including Kent Nagano, Andris Nelsons, Martyn Brabbins,  Susanna Mälkki, and Adès himself; it has been recorded by Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Lines from the last of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets provided the inspiration for this 10-minute ‘consolation’ for orchestra. The lines are in turn from Julian of Norwich’s Consolations, in which she expressed her belief that sin was a natural, even necessary part of the human condition.

As the piece progresses, the full orchestra gradually emerges from the unearthly tintinnabulations of the beginning. The instrumentation is loosely based on Britten’s War Requiem with the instruments divided into two groups: a concertino that sings the melodies, and a larger group which both echoes the melody and provides the harmony. The harmonies themselves are the result of carefully crafted lines of counterpoint which again follow Adès’s scale-system. Instrumental solos are coloured by little splashes from other instruments, recalling the Mahler of Kindertotenlieder, so that they do not appear quite themselves, but are tinged slightly and add to a mood of unease – as though viewing a reflection in a distorting mirror.

Instrumentation and perusal score here.


Anders Hillborg – Liquid Marble (1994)

This 1994 orchestral work was premiered in Stockholm Karis Orkester Norden and Guido Ajmone-Marsán; it received its UK premiere at the BBC Proms in 1997 from Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, who recorded the work together in 2003. It is one of Hillborg’s most widely-performed works, programmed recently by the Swedish Radio Symphony, Stavanger Symfoniorkester, Belgian National Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan, and Tampere Philharmonic.

Hillborg discusses the background to the molten 10-minute piece, which was influenced by Iannis Xenakis’ use of string glissandi and a clarinettist Hillborg heard on the Stockholm metro, here. It opens with a spectral string chord, and ascending clarinet vibratos before coursing volcanically and furiously forward, before finally cooling and coalescing into a monumental mass.  

Instrumentation and perusal score here.


Nigel Hess – A Celebration Overture (2015)

A Celebration Overture was commissioned to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic; it premiered with chief conductor Vasily Petrenko as part of Classic FM Live at London’s Royal Albert Hall in September 2022. It has since been performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and recorded by the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Richard Balcombe.

The 6-minute piece is thoroughgoing in its response to the RLPO’s request for “some good tunes”. The horn section is the first to introduce the "celebration" tune, immediately picked up by the rest of the orchestra; the party atmosphere redoubles when the percussion join in with bongos and cabasa, Woodwind and solo strings introduce another optimistic theme which the brass section try to commandeer as their own. A solo oboe then introduces a more plaintive and thoughtful melody, picked up by a flute and violin, before the horns invite us back to the celebrations and a breathless finale.

Instrumentation and perusal score here.


Other concert openers available for Australian premiere:

Julian Anderson |Imagin’d Corners | click here for further details and instrumentation

Jonathan Harvey | Body Mandala | click here for further details and instrumentation

David Matthews | Toward Sunrise | click here for further details and instrumentation

Nicholas Maw | Spring Music | click here for further details and instrumentation

Cassandra Miller | La Donna | click here for further details and instrumentation

Valgeir Sigurðsson | Eighteen Hundred and Seventy-Five | click here for further details and instrumentation


For more information on works and composers, please contact