On 6 April Thomas Adès conducts the world premiere of Oliver Leith’s Cartoon Sun with the Hallé at Bridgewater Hall. The 14-minute work was commissioned by the Hallé Concerts Society to be for Adès’ first year as Artist in Residence with the Orchestra.

Cartoon Sun is inspired by bells in their numerous forms, making use of pitched and unpitched varieties in varied sizes and shapes – church bells, cowbells, tubular bells (including one dipped in a bucket of water) and sleigh bells. Cartoon Sun will be Leith’s third purely orchestral work following Pearly, woody, goldy, bloody, or, Abundance, premiered at the London Contemporary Music Festival in 2022, and 2013’s Taxa.

Cartoon Sun begins with a ‘Bell cannon fantasy’, whose quiet solemnity turns into a clamour; in ‘Pin flare’ unpitched clusters offer yet more new varieties of bell sounds. ‘Gold billow blow’ continues a sinking feeling previously set in motion in the orchestra, succeeded by a serious of wide, spacious glissandi. A duet of rototoms and tuned cowbells follows, joined in turn by tubular bells, as if they are all freely blowing in the wind. A solo violin rounds off the piece’s technicolour coda - ‘a wink from the sun’, Leith writes.

Adès premieres the work alongside his Tevot (2007) and Tippett’s Triple Concerto; in February 2024 he led the sold-out US premiere of Leith’s chamber opera Last Days with the LA Philharmonic and GBSR Duo at Walt Disney Hall. He also conducted the world premiere of Leith’s Dream Horse for soprano, baritone, and chamber orchestra at the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music in 2018.

Cartoon Sun receives a further performance this summer as part of an orchestral portrait concert on 7 September at Bold Tendencies in Peckham, where the Philharmonia Orchestra will also play Pearly, goldy, woody, bloody, or, Abundance and Honey Siren (2019) for strings. They feature as part of a programme curated by the composer that also includes music by Charles Ives and Franz Schubert. His music previously appeared as part of Bold Tendencies’ 2023 summer programme with a performance of good day good day bad day bad day (2018) from GBSR Duo.