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ARTISTS

Claire Booth, soprano

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.

BCMG,
BCMG was formed in 1987 from within the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and is established as one of Europe’s leading ensembles.   Sir Simon Rattle is the Group’s Founding Patron and has conducted BCMG in the UK, on tour in Europe and America, and on several EMI recordings. The Group has strong relationships with its two Artists-in-Association Oliver Knussen and John Woolrich, and also with Thomas Adès who conducts the Group during 2006/07 in Birmingham, London, Cologne and Paris, and with whom BCMG is invited to Carnegie Hall, New York in 2008. BCMG was awarded The Arts Ball 2002 Outstanding Achievement Award and has also won prestigious Prudential, Royal Philharmonic Society, Gramophone and PRS Millennial awards. In May 2005, BCMG was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Audience Development for its popular Rural Tours programme.
 
The core of BCMG's work is the performance of new music, and the Group has premiered over 100 new works by leading UK and overseas composers. Most have been commissioned with the help of a large number of individuals through BCMG’s ground-breaking Sound Investmentscheme. The Group regularly tours nationally and internationally. Recent UK engagements have included appearances at the Aldeburgh and Cheltenham Festivals, and at the BBC Proms with Birmingham Opera Company for Benjamin Britten’s CurlewRiver.  In April 2006, the Group toured the UK with New York-based jazz trumpeter, Dave Douglas, performing Blue Latitudes, a piece commissioned through BCMG’s Sound Investment scheme. Previous projects have included a European tour with Sir Simon Rattle in 2000, a tour of India in 2002 with Judith Weir and Indian storyteller Vayu Naidu and visits to the Berlin, Radio France Présences and Vienna’s Wien Modern Festivals, Denmark, Sweden and Portugal.   
 
BCMG is committed to engaging the widest possible range of people with its work, and runs extensive learning and audience-building programmes in pursuit of this aim. Projects with young people in and out of school and with adults in a range of community settings are complemented by free performance projects such as the Group’s popular ‘Rural Tours’, Late-Night performances and Meet-the-Composer days. BCMG broadcasts often on BBC Radio, has made TV programmes for BBC and Independent Television, and numerous CD recordings.  The relationship with NMC is particularly strong, with the recent launch of a new CD of Britten’s film music and several more discs planned.
Leila Josefowicz, Violin

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.

BBC Symphony Orchestra,

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.

Oliver Knussen, Conductor

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.

Image Credit: Clive Barda
Huw Watkins, Piano

For information about Huw Watkins, see his composer page.

Image Credit: Hanya Chlala
Ryan Wigglesworth, Conductor

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.
 

Image Credit: Benjamin Ealovega

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COMPOSER:

DESCRIPTION

Artists:

Claire Booth soprano
BCMG
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.

REVIEWS

INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW OUTSTANDING RECORDING
WQXR (New York Radio) ALBUM OF THE WEEK
GRAMOPHONE CHOICE (JANUARY 2013)
 
‘The performances, several from the artists such as Josefowicz and Claire Booth for whom the works were written, are superb, and much of the music ranks among the finest composed in this country in recent decades’  ★★★★★ Andrew Clements, The Guardian
 
'… an impressive and desirable release.' International Record Review
 

'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

 

FUNDING

This recording has been supported by the RVW Trust and the Holst Foundation.

RECORDING CREDITS

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

Catalogue number:
NMC D178
Release Date:
15 October 2012