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.
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.
Since 2008, the Asko Ensemble and Schönberg Ensemble have been united as Asko|Schönberg, a flexible group of musicians who can appear in formations of any needed size to perform twentieth- and twenty-first-century music: the music of established composers such as Ligeti, Kurtág, Stockhausen, Kagel and Andriessen, but also that of a younger generation, composers such as Michel van der Aa, Martijn Padding and Julian Anderson.
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.
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Claire Booth, soprano
Hilary Summers, contralto
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
BBC Symphony Orchestra
ASKO Ensemble & Schönberg Ensemble
Oliver Knussen, conductor
Goehr’s orchestral evocation of Goya’s terrifying painting, Colossos, is coupled with the premiere recording of his early cantata The Deluge, inspired by Eisenstein’s notes for a film based on writings by Leonardo da Vinci (the film was never completed). The neo-classical Little Symphony, which uses the chordal structure of Mussorgsky’s ‘Catacombs’ from Pictures at an Exhibition as a harmonic backbone, is performed by the Dutch chamber orchestra, ASKO Ensemble.
'… a force to be reckoned with in British music…an impressive musical span, which Knussen energises quite wonderfully' The Guardian
'… profound and original…' The Times
‘Colossos or Panic was inspired by the famous Goya paining of a giant bestriding a landscape peopled by terrified Lilliputian humans below. Goehr’s incisive and lucid post-Schoenbergian idiom here delivers a highly dramatic study in the interplay of musical stasis and movement.' BBC music magazine
Supported by the RVW Trust
Alexander Goehr’s music is published by Schott Music.
The Deluge was recorded at the CBSO Centre, Birmingham on 31 January 2010.
Recording Engineer ANDREW MELLOR
Recording Producer ANDREW KEENER
Little Symphony was recorded on 22 April 2008 in the Grote Zaal, Concertgebouw, Amsterdam.
Recording Engineer WILLEM MULLER
Recording Producer ALEXANDER GOEHR
Colossos or Panic was recorded in Studio 1, BBC Maida Vale, London on 23 April 2007.
Recording Engineer NEIL PEMBERTON
Recording Producer ANN McKAY
BBC SO Leader PIETER SCHOEMAN
Post-production Producer OLIVER KNUSSEN
Digital Editing /Mastering ANDREW MELLOR
Executive Producer COLIN MATTHEWS
Cover image: The Colossus, c.1810-18 (burnished aquatint) by Francisco Jose de Goya y Lucientes. Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, Spain / The Bridgeman Art Library
The Deluge (P) 2012 NMC Recordings Ltd
Colossos or Panic (P) 2012 BBC
Little Symphony (P) 2012 VPRO
(C) 2012 NMC Recordings Ltd