Claire Booth is rapidly establishing an international reputation both in opera and in concert, in repertoire ranging from the operas of Handel and Mozart to 20th- and 21st-century scores. Recent successes include the world premiere of Oliver Knussen’s Requiem: Songs for Sue, written for her and conducted by the composer with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group at the BBC Proms.
Claire Booth studied Modern History at Oxford and singing at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, English National Opera Studio’s Baylis Programme, and at the National Opera Studio; she has been awarded prizes including a Susan Chilcott Foundation Scholarship, the Worshipful Company of Musician’s Silver Medal and the Harold Rosenthal Award. She has also been a finalist in both the 2003 Guildhall School of Music and Drama Gold Medal Competition and the 2004 Kathleen Ferrier Awards.
She made her debuts at the BBC Proms, Edinburgh and Lucerne International Festivals, performing Knussen, John Adams, and Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire conducted by Oliver Knussen, Edward Gardner and Pierre Boulez respectively. She performs regularly with the BBC Symphony and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestras, the Philharmonia Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta and Ensemble Intercontemporain working with Edward Gardner, Zsolt Nagy, Jonathan Nott, Martyn Brabbins, Pierre-André Valade and Oliver Knussen. She has appeared on Radio 2, Radio 3 and BBC 4 in broadcasts from the Aldeburgh Festival, the BBC Proms and the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s studio concert seasons.
In the field of baroque and classical music she has performed on many of the leading European stages, and has given concerts with The King’s Consort, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, Scottish Opera, the Early Opera Company and the Classical Opera Company. Other operatic performances include 1st Niece in Opera North’s critically acclaimed production of Peter Grimes, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, also for Opera North, and roles for New Chamber Opera.
As a recitalist she made her debut at the Park Lane Group series at the Purcell Room in 2001 singing works by Oliver Knussen and Elliott Carter and has since given recitals at the Wigmore Hall and Cheltenham Festival with her regular accompanist Ryan Wigglesworth. She performed for the Walton Foundation at La Mortella in Ischia with Iain Burnside, and at St. John Smith’s Square with Malcolm Martineau.
Violinist Leila Josefowicz came to national attention in 1994 when she made her Carnegie Hall debut with Sir Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, and has since appeared with many of the world’s most prestigious orchestras and eminent conductors.
A regular and close collaborator of leading composers of the day such as John Adams and Oliver Knussen, she is a strong advocate of new music – a characteristic which is reflected in her diverse programs and her enthusiasm for premiering new works. Ms. Josefowicz has recently premiered concertos written for her by Esa-Pekka Salonen/Los Angeles Philharmonic, Steve Mackey/St. Louis Symphony and Colin Matthews/City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, and played first performances of Thomas Adès’ violin concerto Concentric Paths with the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras, the San Francisco, Toronto and Seattle symphonies and at the Aspen Music Festival. In recognition of her passionate advocacy and genuine commitment to the music of today, Ms. Josefowicz was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship.
The BBC Symphony Orchestra has played a central role at the heart of British musical life since its inception in 1930, and as the flagship orchestra of the BBC provides the backbone of the BBC Proms with at least a dozen concerts each year, including the First and Last Nights. Strongly committed to twentieth-century and contemporary music, it has given the premiere of more than 1,000 works by composers such as Bartók, Britten, Hindemith, Holst, Stravinsky and Shostakovich, and more recently has premiered BBC commissions by Simon Bainbridge, Jonathan Dove, Michael Nyman and Sir John Tavener among others. Its annual season of concerts as Associate Orchestra of the Barbican includes a weekend each January focusing upon a single composer from the twentieth or twenty-first century, most recently James MacMillan, Elliott Carter and Sofia Gubaidulina.
Jiří Bĕlohlávek took up the post of Chief Conductor in July 2006 and David Robertson was appointed Principal Guest Conductor in 2005. The BBC SO works frequently with Conductor Laureate Sir Andrew Davis and Artist-in-Association John Adams. All concerts are broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and a number are televised, giving the BBC Symphony Orchestra the highest broadcast profile of any orchestra in the UK. The BBC SO is committed to innovative education work, with ongoing projects including the BBC SO Family Orchestra and Music Intro, introducing families to concert-going.
The BBC SO has appeared on 34 of NMC’s CDs, including the best-selling recording of Elgar’s Third Symphony.
Born in Glasgow in 1952, Knussen grew up near London, where his father was principal double bass of the London Symphony Orchestra. It was with the LSO that he made his debut in April 1968, conducting his First Symphony in London and in Carnegie Hall, New York. In 1970 he was awarded the first of three fellowships to Tanglewood, where he studied with Gunther Schuller. During this time he completed several works which were subsequently widely performed on both sides of the Atlantic and established his early reputation. In 1975 Knussen returned permanently to the UK.
From 1983 till 1998, Knussen was an Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival, and also held posts at the Tanglewood Music Center and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. In 1992, with Colin Matthews, he established the Contemporary Composition and Performance courses at the Britten-Pears School in Snape.
After many years of close collaboration with the London Sinfonietta, Oliver Knussen became Music Director in 1998, and in 2002 was made Conductor Laureate. In 2006 he was appointed Artist in Association with the BCMG. Among his many awards are Honorary Memberships of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Royal Philharmonic Society, an Honorary Doctorate from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and the 2004 Association of British Orchestras Award. In 2006 he was named the second recipient of the Michael Ludwig Nemmers Prize from Northwestern University, USA.
He has guest-conducted in many parts of the world, including in the USA, Canada, Europe and Japan. As a conductor he has recorded more than thirty CDs of contemporary music, several of which have won international awards - these include Robin Holloway's Concerto for Orchestra No.2, which won NMC's first Gramophone Award, and Maxwell Davies' opera Taverner.
He became a CBE in the 1994 Birthday Honours.
In recent seasons Ryan Wigglesworth has appeared with orchestras and ensembles including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Halle Orchestra, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Britten Sinfonia, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Avanti!, Ensemble Modern and English Touring Opera. His repertoire stretches from the Baroque to the present day, with over forty premieres to date, including works by Birtwistle, Goehr and Carter. During the past year he made his second appearance at the BBC Proms, his debut at the Royal Opera House, appeared as pianist/director in performances of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 17, and conducted Eugene Onegin at the Endellion Festival. Forthcoming concerts include a re-invitation to the Philharmonia at the Royal Festival Hall, returns to the BBCSO and the Britten Sinfonia, and his debut with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchestra at the Philharmonie, Berlin.
As a composer, his recent triptych of works for the BBCSO have met with widespread critical acclaim. Sternenfall (2007); The Genesis of Secrecy (2009), commissioned by the BBC Proms and premiered by Sir Andrew Davis; and Augenlieder (2009), an orchestral song cycle written for soprano Claire Booth and premiered under the direction of the composer at the Barbican in November 2009. Augenlieder won the vocal prize at the 2010 British Composer Awards. His most recent work - A First Book of Inventions (2010) - was premiered by the composer with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in November 2010.Upcoming projects include a work for tenor Mark Padmore and the Berlin Philharmonic's Scharoun Ensemble, and a Violin Concerto for Gordan Nikolic and the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, as part of his residency with the NCO and Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra in Amsterdam.
Wigglesworth was educated at Oxford University and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and between 2007-9 was a Lecturer at Cambridge University and a Fellow of Corpus Christi College.
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Claire Booth soprano
Leila Josefowicz violin
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Alexandra Wood violin
Huw Watkins piano
Ryan Wigglesworth piano
Oliver Knussen conductor
Oliver Knussen is a huge influence on the contemporary British music scene - not only as composer, but as conductor, teacher, programmer and artistic director. Despite having started composing as a teenager, his oeuvre is relatively small – partly due to his busy schedule as a conductor (he must surely hold the record for premiere performances), but also because every bar he writes is measured against all the music that he knows and loves.
This new recording, to celebrate Olly's 60th birthday, is a chronological tour of his work, starting with the brooding orchestral Choral, and the poetic Autumnal for violin (both written in the 1970s), through to Ophelia's Last Dance from 2010. Requiem: Songs for Sue, was written following the death of his wife in 2003, and sets texts by poets who were important to them both – from Emily Dickinson's poem to her sister Sue, "Is it true, dear Sue?" to works by Antonio Machado, WH Auden and Rainer Maria Rilke – the latter translated by Olly's friend and musical collaborator Alexander Goehr. Also on this disc is a live recording of his Violin Concerto, performed at the BBC Proms by Leila Josefowicz.
'Exquisitely wrought instrumental and vocal works reveal a picture of a subtle sound-magician' Financial Times
‘sample the slow movement of the violin concerto and you will be moved and ‘hooked’’ Musical Pointers
‘Claire Booth brilliantly manages the music kaleidoscopic shifts of rhetorical focus and is equally successful in the earlier group of Whitman settings, given here in the version with piano accompaniment… The new recordings are all of high quality and include the composers own notes’ Gramophone
...‘Is an enthralling tribute to one of the greatest of contemporary composers. This disc offers us contemporary music to swoon over. You’d do worse than start with the Violin Concerto, started during the winter of 2001, it’s elegiac central Aria packing an incredible punch. Knussen’s ear for colour rarely falters; the sonorous yet unnerving bell sound at the stat of concerto (played fearlessly by Leila Josefowicz) are magnificent. I loved the recent Ophelia’s Last Dance for solo piano. Played by fellow composer Huw Watkins, it hovers slyly on the fringes of accessibility’ The Arts Desk
‘A definitive performance by Leila Josefowicz and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with the composer conducting’ The WholeNote
‘One of British music’s great originals, noted for his painstaking perfectionism, Knussen’s work is complex yet accessible and highly enjoyable. This is an excellent introduction to anyone not yet familiar with the work of one of contemporary music's most talented and influential artists’ New-Classics
‘Exquisitely wrought instrumental and vocal works reveal a picture of a subtle sound-magician’
Andrew Clark, Financial Times
‘One of the most talented composers and conductors working today. A fastidious craftsman Knussen creates music gems' ConcertoNet
‘Knussen is composer of great imagination and superb craft, and a master of colour and nuance - there is not a moment of music here that is less than thoroughly engaging’ Fanfare Magazine
'Requiem-Song for Sue [...] performed here with intense warmth by soprano Claire Booth and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.' WQXR
This recording has been supported by the RVW Trust and the Holst Foundation.
Requiem – Songs for Sue and Secret Psalm were recorded at the CBSO Centre, Birmingham on 14 March 2011.
Recording Producer ANDREW KEENER/ Recording Engineers SIMON EADON, DAVID COYLE
Autumnal, Whitman Settings, Prayer Bell Sketch and Ophelia’s Last Dance were recorded at the CBSO Centre, Birmingham on 4-5 April 2012.
Recording Producer COLIN MATTHEWS/ Recording Engineer SIMON EADON
Choral was recorded for BBC Radio 3 at Studio 1, BBC Maida Vale, London on 30 March 2012.
Leader STEPHEN BRYANT
Recording Engineer SUSAN THOMAS/ Editing Engineer ADELE CONLIN
Recording Producer ANN MCKAY/ Editing Producer OLIVER KNUSSEN
The Violin Concerto was recorded live at the BBC Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London on 17 August 2007 for BBC Radio 3.
Leader STEPHEN BRYANT
Recording Engineer/ Editing SIMON HANCOCK
Recording Producer ANN McKAY/ Editing Producer OLIVER KNUSSEN
Digital Editing & Mastering DAVID LEFEBER
Executive Producer for NMC COLIN MATTHEWS
Cover image: Grant Wood: Spring Turning (1936) Courtesy of Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina
© Estate of Grant Wood / DACS, London / VAGA, NY 2012
Graphic Design FRANCOIS HALL
Requiem – Songs for Sue, Autumnal, Secret Psalm, Prayer Bell Sketch, Ophelia’s Last Dance, Whitman Settings (P) 2012 NMC Recordings Ltd
Choral (P) 2012 BBC
Violin Concerto (P) 2007 BBC
© 2012 NMC Recordings Ltd