New Music Biennial 2014
Discover new music all over the UK

David SawerDavid Sawer

Bronze and Iron


Celebrating the group’s 21st birthday, this exciting commission for brass quintet will be performed at over twenty informal and free outdoor events across Britain’s historic bandstands, outdoor festivals and public spaces. The project will bring contemporary music out of the concert hall and on to the village green.

"I am thrilled to have been selected for New Music Biennial, and very excited indeed to be asked to write a new work for Onyx Brass, to be performed in bandstands up and down the country; the idea of composing a piece that would draw the public’s attention to these unique, surviving monuments in free, open and public spaces immediately appealed." David Sawer

"We are thrilled to get this chance to work with David and to bring new British music to people all over the UK from all walks of life, on bandstands and village greens around the UK.  Our 20 years work in brass chamber music have been leading up to this scale of project, so what a wonderful way to celebrate our 21st birthday!" Onyx Brass


About David Sawer

David Sawer studied music at the University of York and subsequently won a DAAD scholarship to study in Cologne with Mauricio Kagel. In 1992 he was awarded the Fulbright-Chester-Schirmer Fellowship in Composition; a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award followed in 1993 and, in 1995, the Arts Foundation’s Composer Fellowship. In 1996 he was composer-in-association with the Bournemouth Orchestras.

Byrnan Wood, his first large-scale orchestral piece, was premièred at the 1992 BBC Proms and recorded for NMC by the BBC Symphony Orchestra with Andrew Davis. The Trumpet Concerto was premièred by the same orchestra in 1995, and in 1997 the BBC National Orchestra of Wales gave the world première performances of the greatest happiness principle in Cardiff and the BBC Proms - also later recorded for NMC by the BBC SO. Tiroirs, commissioned by the Michael Vyner Trust for the London Sinfonietta, has been performed throughout Europe, in the USA and at the 1998 ISCM World Music Days.

Drama, or a fascination with theatrical possibilities, is present in many of his works. His radio composition Swansong, a commentary in words and music on a short story by Hector Berlioz, won a Sony Award in 1990. Cat’s-Eye was choreographed by Richard Alston for Ballet Rambert and Hollywood Extra, written for the Matrix Ensemble to accompany an expressionist silent film, was taken on a Contemporary Music Network Tour by the Asko Ensemble.

In the theatre, he has worked with playwrights Edward Bond, Nick Dear and Paul Godfrey and has written two operas: the one-act The Panic for the Royal Opera’s Garden Venture, and From Morning to Midnight, a full-length work commissioned by English National Opera, premièred at the London Coliseum in 2001, and for which he received a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for Outstanding Achievement in Opera; a suite from the opera has been recorded for NMC.

Other recent works include a Piano Concerto for Rolf Hind and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, which won the British Academy British Composer Award 2003 in the orchestra category, Stramm Gedichte for the New London Chamber Choir and James Wood, Rebus, commissioned by musikFabrik and Flesh and Blood for BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Sawer's operetta Skin Deep, written to a libretto by comedian Armando Iannucci, was premièred in 2009 by Opera North, with performances in Leeds, London, Salford, Newcastle, Glasgow, Bregenz and Copenhagen. In the same year, Rumpelstiltskin, a ballet for dancers and ensemble, was premièred by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.


Onyx BrassAbout Onyx Brass

Onyx Brass continues to be the leading light in establishing the brass quintet as a medium for serious chamber music, presenting it in the entertaining and articulate style that has become the group’s trademark.  BBC Music Magazine described the group as 'easily the classiest brass ensemble in Britain', and Gramophone hailed 'some of the most thrilling chamber brass-playing of its kind'. Onyx and its six recordings are also regularly featured on BBC Radio 3. The group has commissioned and performed the world premières of well over 100 new works, with many more in the pipeline.  The quintet tour frequently across the USA and Europe, and is also resident ensemble of Imperial College London. Work with singers also forms a central part of Onyx’s work, often under the auspices of the John Armitage Memorial trust, with whom Onyx Brass has been affiliated since its inception.





David Sawer, New Music BiennialBBC Radio 3





The performance of Bronze and Iron will be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 between 4 and 10 August 2014 and will be available as a digital download in MP3 and FLAC formats here on 14 August 2014.






Onyx Brass photo: Benjamin Ealovega


New Music Biennial: Meet David Sawer



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