"...he writes music that can’t help sounding like now." Critics' Circle (2023)
In May the Critics’ Circle announced Tom Coult as the recipient of its Young Talent Award. The awards highlight the wealth of new musical talent across the country and celebrate artists for whom 2022 saw major breakthroughs. Their citation reads:
Tom Coult is a storyteller in sound with an ear that makes good on the promise of his titles: I Find Planets, for example, Beautiful Caged Thing and Inventions (for Heath Robinson). All the same, his 2018 String Quartet shows that he doesn’t need an off-the-wall title or idea to renew tradition and tonality with a fiercely individual imagination. He writes for instruments and voices rather than against them, he writes in musical but unpredictable forms such as nocturnes and mazes, and he writes music that can’t help sounding like now.
His 2022 opera Violet was described as “the best new British opera in years” by The Daily Telegraph and has already earned further stagings in Germany and France. Also premiered last year, his Horn Trio achieved the feat of sounding familiar, Romantic and entirely original all at once. His tenure as the BBC Philharmonic’s Composer in Residence is enriching the modern orchestral repertoire with a string of pieces including a violin concerto, Pleasure Garden, which has also attracted new performers and audiences.
Coult’s chamber opera Violet was staged in Paris in June, directed by Jacques Osinski and produced by L'Aurore Boréale at the Théâtre de l'Aquarium: the third new production of the piece since its debut at the Aldeburgh Festival last year. In the summer of 2022 he was composer-in-residence at Musikdorf Ernen, which saw the premiere of his horn trio Two Nocturnes and a Maze. Violet has recently been nominated in the Opera cateogry of the 2023 South Bank Sky Arts Awards.
Other recent projects include two new orchestral for the BBC Philharmonic. On 1 April Nicholas Collon conducted Coult’s haunting Three Pieces that Disappear at the Bridgewater Hall; on 28 April soprano Anna Dennis joined Andrew Gourlay and the orchestra for the world premiere of After Lassus in a studio concert specially curated by the composer.
June saw the first US performance of Coult’s arrangement of Vivaldi’s La Follia from the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Christopher Rountree. On 24 June Coult also continued his collaboration with violinist Daniel Pioro, for whom he wrote his violin concerto Pleasure Garden in 2021. Pioro and the Manchester Camerata gave the world premiere of Coult’s arrangement of Pioro’s Saint Boy for violin and orchestra at the Bridgewater Hall as part of the MCR:CLASSICAL festival. The composition is taken from Pioro’s debut album, which also features Coult’s arrangement of O Ecclesia by Hildegard von Bingen for violin and organ.
On 27 May Thibaut Surugue performed Coult’s solo piano work Inventions (for Heath Robinson) (2019) at Inselfestival Hombroicht in Neuss, and again on 10 June in Cologne at Kunst-Station Sankt Peter; Surugue also performed the work in January this year at Zionskirche Bethel, Bielefeld, and in September 2020 in Frankfurt at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst. The 15-minute piece is named for the English cartoonist and illustrator, who created whimsical drawings of fantastical, impossible machines.