Anne Boyd | At The Rising of the Sun (2001)
One of Australia’s most distinguished and best-loved composers, Anne Boyd celebrates her 75th birthday in 2021. Much of her rich and varied output is spiritual and meditative in nature and draws heavily on East-Asian musical traditions, especially those of Japan and Indonesia. Composed in 2001, this luminous 10-minute orchestral work begins with blazing brass fanfares before tracing one long, inexorable journey that takes in everything from hushed meditative textures to awe-inspiring sonic vistas.
Tansy Davies | Tilting (2005)
Tilting is a deliciously gritty orchestra work, which typifies the quirky rhythms and extreme instrumental colours of Tansy Davies’ style. Across its 7-minute canvas, it takes the audience through a determined, almost menacing landscape of large, spiky gestures and awkward, fragmented melody. Davies draws inspiration from the architect Zaha Hadid and replicates the contorted shapes of her designs by twisting and splitting a French Touvère song so that it appears differently in each instance. Commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra, the work has since been performed in Zagreb at the ISCM World Music Days, by three other UK orchestras, and by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra.
Jonathan Harvey | Body Mandala (2006)
Inspired by Buddist purification rituals that Harvey witnessed when travelling in Tibet, this arresting 13-minute work was one of a clutch of late orchestral masterpieces he wrote for the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Ilan Volkov. The distinctive low horns, tungchens, and the magnificently raucous 4-note oboes, gelings, are imitated in earthy, visceral textures, while wild, jazzy outbursts in the woodwind provide contrast.
David Matthews | New Fire (2018)
Inspired by the new fire kindled at the start of the Easter Saturday, service this lyrical 6-minute work for orchestra begins in hushed darkness with muted strings. As the piece develops, solo cello then later violins into a plainsong melody as points of light begin to appear in glockenspiel, crotales, piano, harp and then high woodwind; they gradually proliferate, until the trumpets enter with the three rising notes of the plainsong. New Fire culminates in what David Matthews describes as ‘a triumphant celebration of light’.
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.
Martin Suckling | Release (2013)
A thrilling 12-minute concert opener premiered by Ilan Volkov and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Release unfolds as a vivid drama covering a dizzying range of emotions and a vast orchestral canvas. Loud common-chord strikes by the whole orchestra leave behind a trace of microtonal clusters, which eventually blossom into rich, resonant harmonies; a viola and cor anglais melody gradually expands to fill the available space; and chaotic, dense harmonic exhalations which gradually coalesce into simple pulses. In the uppermost register of the violins, a song begins to emerge.