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Feature
Freya

Described as “at once intimate and visionary” by BBC Music Magazine, Freya Waley-Cohen’s music has been heard in the Wigmore Hall, St John’s Smith Square, Barbican Centre, Sage Gateshead and New Mexico Museum of Art; and at the Aldeburgh, Cheltenham, Dartington, Ryedale, Santa Fe, St Magnus, Tanglewood and Spitalfields festivals.

Freya held an Open Space Residency at Snape Maltings from 2015 to 2017; is Associate Composer of contemporary-music series nightmusic at St David’s Hall and of Reverie Choir; and will be a featured artist at this year’s Dartington Festival. She is a founding member and artistic director of Listenpony, a concert series, commissioning body and record label that programmes classical music, both new and old, alongside a variety of other genres including folk, jazz and pop, in beautiful and unusual venues.


Philharmonia Composers' Academy Vol 2 will be released on January 18. Hear a preview here.

Can you share with us your top five contemporary composers and/or pieces?
I always feel a little insincere making a list of my top pieces. I suppose this is partially because what I love to listen to is constantly changing and can become a bit like a false freeze-frame of time, representing what happened to pop into my head at that moment.  I also listen in a way that mixes in old and new, pop and classical - and therefore it feels even stranger to separate out the contemporary music and choose some top composers. If I had to pick a favourite composer, I’d say Messiaen.

Where and when was your first composition performed? What was it?
The first piece I had performed was at the Walden School, which is a composition course for teenagers that happened to be 5 mins away from my step-Grandmothers house. They have a festival week at the end of the course and all their students’ pieces get performed by professional players. I was 11 the first year and I wrote a little viola duet with three movements. It was all handwritten and I wasn’t exactly the tidiest teenager, so I think that it is lost to time now (thankfully!).

Any stories of unusual jobs you had prior to entering the music world?
I worked in a nursery school for a year. My main duties were taking three and four year olds, in groups of 8, to swimming lessons, sports lessons and drama lessons, as well as entertaining them with stories, colouring-in, puzzles and sometimes biscuits in between lessons.  With any situation including very little children there are a million funny and beautiful little moments as well as a certain amount of madness and chaos.

 

You're stuck in a lift with three people of your choice (dead or alive)! Who are they and what would be the topic of discussion while you wait to get rescued?

If I had to pick three, I would say I’d love to meet Sappho, so that I could hear her lost songs and poems, Harriet Tubman, because I can hardly think of anyone whose bravery could be more inspiring and important, and Hildegard von Bingen, if only to find out how she managed her time so as to achieve in so many different fields in just one life time!


What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on a piece for the LA Phil’s green umbrella series for John Adams to conduct, alongside a trio for viola da gamba, cello and clarinet for CHROMA ensemble, and a string quartet for the Albion Quartet which will be premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival this summer.

 

If you could collaborate with anyone across any genre or art form who would it be and why?
At the moment my dream project would be ‘dance-cycle'; a set of loosely interconnected short stories shown through dance (and, of course, music). I’d love to collaborate with a choreographer associated with a different genre of dance for each story - so those choreographers would be my dream collaborators at the moment - and I’d need to get the writers of the short stories I have in mind on board with the project too!

Feature

A composer of music of “high drama” and “intense emotion” (BBC), “at once, ingenious, hypnotic, brave, and beautiful” (Festival Internazionale A.F. Lavagnino), Eugene Birman (b. 1987) has written for symphony orchestras (London Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra), choirs (BBC Singers, Latvian Radio Choir, Eric Ericsons Kammarkör), and leading ensembles and soloists (Maxim Vengerov, Maurizio Ben Omar, etc.) across four continents in venues ranging from London’s Southbank Centre to Carnegie Hall to above the Arctic Circle. His highly public career, with appearances on CNN, BBC World TV, Radio France, Deutsche Welle, and others, is characterized by a fearless focus on socially relevant large-scale compositions covering the financial crisis, Russian border treaties, and more. Commissioners and partners for Birman’s work extend beyond the concert hall to major international bodies such as the European Union, the Austrian Foreign Ministry, and the Hong Kong SAR, as well as through prominent fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (2018) and the US Department of State’s Fulbright Program (2010-11). Most recently, he was awarded the 2017 Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize, leading to a season-long residency at the Southbank Centre and world premiere with the Philharmonia Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall, and appointed the sole Artist-in-Residence of the 2018 Helsinki Festival, Finland’s biggest yearly cultural event.

Philharmonia Composers' Academy Vol 2 will be released on January 18. Hear a preview here.

Can you share with us your top five contemporary composers and/or pieces?
I'd rather turn the question around a bit and name five pieces of art from all genres that inspire me. If so, Alexander Zeldovich's 2011 film "Target", the self-described "audio-visual terror futuristic opera" band IC3PEAK from Russia (recently arrested, I believe), the Korean poet Pak tu-jin, João Guimarães Rosa's novel "Grande Sertao" (even in its English translation, since I can't read the Portuguese), every single block of my neighbourhood in Hong Kong (Sham Shui Po), and, if pressed to name one piece of music that's recently a 'favourite', it'll be anything on Toivo Tulev's new 'Magnificat' album recently released on Naxos for which I wrote the booklet notes. That's six, actually - but more is always better.

Where and when was your first composition performed? What was it?
It would have been in Moscow surely in 1993 or 1994 when I was five or six years old, or perhaps even earlier. The first composition I ever had published was 'Birds Concerto' in 1994, for two violins. I'm sure we performed that at some point.

Any stories of unusual jobs you had prior to entering the music world?
Why only prior? They continue. I was a wine taster and consulted in import, I started an online food delivery company in Estonia in 2012 that has been dominant in the market for years, I've written columns for Forbes and contributed to published research in finance and activist private equity for Columbia Business School, and that's just off the top of my head. Life is long, one can never do too much!

 

You're stuck in a lift with three people of your choice (dead or alive)! Who are they and what would be the topic of discussion while you wait to get rescued?

Two firefighters and whoever designed the lift would be ideal. We'd be short on conversation but we'd all be out to where we really need to be - creation!

What are you working on at the moment?
I just finished a twenty-seven-minute violin concerto, the first movement of which was already premiered by Maxim Vengerov a couple years back; the full version finally gets done next year. It's been a seven-year project that's spanned my professional compositional career, in many ways. And the next is a commission for the Orquestra Gulbenkian in Lisbon, Portugal with two solo singers on the subject of Fernando Pessoa's brilliant poetry and prose. And somewhere in between there are two big vocal-research projects based around Russian propaganda and air pollution, respectively (luckily not all at once).

 

If you could collaborate with anyone across any genre or art form who would it be and why?
I get to collaborate with some incredible people and am particularly looking forward to a project I can't speak publicly about yet, but it covers film, travel, science, history, music, and art installation all at once with the greatest people I know. Living between Hong Kong and the UK, currently, has put me in touch with a wide constellation of genius artists and thinkers who work increasingly in multi-disciplinary ways. For me to fit into that, and even to facilitate it increasingly, is the best part about this job.

Feature

In 2008, Austin Leung was awarded a half scholarship to study at the University of Hong Kong, majoring in Medical Engineering. In his second year of study, he occasionally joined the University choir, which served as an enlightenment and the start of a musical journey for him. Deeply inspired, he started learning and practicing music for around six hours a day. Two years later, he acquired his first ABRSM Grade 8 certificates in both violin and music theory. Leung’s composition is distinctive for its integration of contrasting musical materials in the same work, ranging from tonal, expressive melodies to brutal contemporary ‘noise’. Such a compositional approach echoes Leung’s philosophical belief that the world is united yet also diverse. If the most contradictory musical materials can combine perfectly in the same piece, then humans, regardless of background or culture, should be able to coexist in the same world without discrimination, prejudice and war. Such a message is especially important in this era and Leung believes that music is one of the most effective platforms to deliver this message.

 

Philharmonia Composers' Academy Vol 2 will be released on January 18. Hear a preview here.






 

Can you share with us your top five contemporary composers and/or pieces?

George Crumb: Makrokosmos IV

George Crumb: Vox Balaenae

Qigang Chen: Iris Dévoilée

Unsuk Chin: Rocana

Yoshimatsu: Kamui-Chikap Symphony

 

Where and when was your first composition performed? What was it?

My first composition was performed in 2014 at the Hong Kong City Hall Theatre. It was a 10-minute piece for sinfonietta conducted by myself and performed by my friends.

 

Any stories of unusual jobs you had prior to entering the music world?

I worked as a technical assistant at a company that sells ceramic glass (thanks to my engineering degree!), which is usually used on induction cookers.

 

You're stuck in a lift with three people of your choice (dead or alive)! Who are they and what would be the topic of discussion while you wait to get rescued?

Maybe just one... I would like to ask Jesus what he thinks about the recent world (although he had probably foreseen this long ago…) Is it meant to be?

 

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on a commission by the Hong Kong Sinfonietta

 

If you could collaborate with anyone across any genre or art form who would it be and why?

There isn’t anyone specific that I would like to work with, but recently I have been imagining collaborating with art forms like drama and animation etc.

While music is usually said to be relatively abstract, I see a lot of potential in collaborating with art forms that have the capability of delivering some concrete messages. 

Feature

National Album DayIn celebration of National Album Day, we asked composers what the first NMC album they heard was and which is their favourite.

Take a look at their answers below...

#nationalalbumday   @albumdayUK

 

Dai Fujikura

First NMC album I heard - Jonathan Harvey: Bhakti
My favourite NMC album - Jonathan Harvey: Bhakti
Check out Dai Fujikura’s NMC album Secret Forest
 

 

Robin Haigh

First NMC album I heard - Harrison Birtwistle: Punch and Judy
My favourite NMC album - Simon Holt: a table of noises
Check out Robin Haigh's NMC album Next Wave 2
 

 

 

Skempton

Howard Skempton

First NMC album I heard - 'I'm sure the first NMC album I heard was Mary Wiegold's Songbook.

My favourite NMC album - 'It's impossible to pick a favourite, but I'll definitely keep going back to Joe Cutler's Elsewhereness that I just received. That's my favourite at the moment!'
Check out Howard Skempton's NMC album Rime of the Ancient Mariner

 

 

Raymond Yiu

First NMC album I heard - Jonathan Harvey: Bhakti
My favourite NMC album - Julian Anderson: The Book of Hours
Check out Raymond Yiu’s NMC album A Countertenor Songbook
 

 

Colin Riley

First NMC album I heard - Howard Skempton: Lento
My favourite NMC album - Eliza Carthy & Moulettes: Rivers and Railways
Check out Colin Riley’s NMC album Shenanigans
 

 

 

Christopher Fox

Christopher Fox

First NMC album I heard - 'I'm old enough to have one of the very first NMC albums, a wonderful recital disc by Michael Finnissy including a tiny gem by Judith Weir, Michael's Strathspey, and other music by Howard Skempton, Chris Newman and Michael himself.'
My favourite NMC album - 'I like all the NMC records with my music, of course, especially EXAUDI's A Glimpse of Sion's Glory, but the one I have listened to the most is probably Richard Barrett's Vanity. It's a completely compelling piece of music, from beginning to end, and sounds as extraordinary as when I first heard it 20 years ago.'
Check out Christopher Fox’s NMC album A Glimpse of Sion's Glory

 

Tarik O'Regan

First NMC album I heard - Mary Wiegold's Songbook
My favourite NMC album - Helen Grime: Night Songs
Check out Tarik O'Regan’s NMC album A Celestial Map of the Sky
 

 

Andrew Hamilton

First NMC album I heard - Gerald Barry: Nua Nos 'It was life changing as a 17-year-old!'
My favourite NMC album - Gerald Barry: Nua Nos
Check out Andrew Hamilton’s NMC album music for people
 

 

Kenneth Hesketh

First NMC album I heard - Mark-Anthony Turnage: On All Fours
My favourite NMC album - Harrison Birtwistle: Punch and Judy
Check out Kenneth Hesketh’s NMC album Wunderkammer(konzert)
 

 

Claudia Molitor

Molitor

First NMC album I heard - Michael Finnissy plays Weir, Finnissy, Newman and Skempton.
My favourite NMC album - I don't like to pick a favourite, but I can answer that the album I'm currently enjoying very much is A Glimpse of Sion's Glory with the wonderful EXAUDI singing Christopher Fox's music.'
Check out Claudia Molitor’s NMC album The Singing Bridge

 

 

 

Cheryl Frances-Hoad

First NMC album I heard - Ancora | Skempton, Guy, Muldowney
My favourite NMC album - 'I think that pretty much has to be my favourite album too - I still remember being totally gobsmacked by Howard Skempton's Lento.'
Check out Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s NMC album Flux
 

 

Mark Bowden

Mark

First NMC album I heard - Mark-Anthony Turnage: On All Fours - 'As a young, aspiring saxophonist I absolutely loved (and still do!) the four works on this album. I listened to them over and over again, driving my parents mad!'
My favourite NMC album - 'So many, but at the moment, my favourite NMC album is Helen Grime's Night Songs. Seven incisive chamber and orchestral works; vivid colours and beautiful melodies.'
Check out Mark Bowden's NMC album Sudden Light

 

Laura Bowler

First NMC album I heard - Harrison Birtwistle: The Mask of Orpheus
My favourite NMC album - Philip Venables: Below the Belt
Check out Laura Bowler’s NMC album In The Theatre of Air
 

 

Bray

Charlotte Bray

First NMC album I heard - 'I think probably Julian Anderson's Book of Hours, either that or Turnage's On All Fours.'
My favourite NMC album - Oliver Knussen: Autumnal - 'Every track is a gem, as is all of Olly's music. I also love Simon Holt's a table of noises.'
Check out Charlotte Bray’s NMC album At the Speed of Stillness

 

 

 

 

 

What's your first heard/favourite NMC album? Please let us know in the comments section below ...

Feature

NMC Halle

 

'The Hallé is very proud of its association with NMC, and the range and quality of projects we have been able to undertake through it.  There is nothing more exciting and worthwhile for an orchestra than bringing to life the works of living composers and presenting them before the widest possible public.'

John Summers, Chief Executive, Hallé Concerts Society

 

We're proud to continue our partnership with Hallé, our new September releases from Huw Watkins and Jonathan Dove making it 12 releases featuring the orchestra. The first album, Harrison Birtwistle's Night's Black Bird won a Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine Award and the second, Benjamin Britten's Britten to America was nominated for a Grammy!

In honour of this ongoing partnership, we're offering 20% off all back catalogue releases* featuring the Hallé using discount code NMCHALLE20

 

 

 

*Does not include the two new releases (NMC D224 and NMC D233). Offer expires 18 October 2018.

 

Discount valid on any of the following releases:

Related Recordings

A Celestial Map of the Sky,

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a table of noises,

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Apollinaire's Bird,

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Britten to America,

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Dinosaur,

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Echo and Narcissus,

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Millennium Scenes,

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Night Songs,

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Night's Black Bird,

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Orion Over Farne
Feature

Dublin born composer Andrew Hamilton studied in Ireland, England and The Netherlands. His composition teachers included Kevin Volans, Anthony Gilbert and Louis Andriessen. In 2004 he was awarded the Macaulay Fellowship by the Arts Council of Ireland and from 2005 to 2006 he was a fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart. Currently he is a visiting tutor in composition at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

 

Andrew Hamilton's album music for people is available on NMC here.

 

 

What was your route into composing?

Very conventional: sang relentlessly, learned the recorder which I didn't stick with as I found it slightly upsetting (massed groups of six year old children playing Frére Jacques did not live up to my six year old concept of the transcendental ), started the violin at seven and started writing stuff down aged 10.

 

Where and when was your first composition performed? What was it?

At 13 I wrote a piece for myself and the three other students in my music class and we played it in school assembly.  It was about a mountain in Ireland called Slieve Gullion, it did not go down well.


You're stuck in a lift with three people of your choice (dead or alive)! Who are they and what would be the topic of discussion while you wait to get rescued?

I would choose my heroes Agnes Martin, Marcel Proust and Mozart. Proust and Mozart would keep our spirits up with hilarious stories but after a while we would need Martin to bring a bit of calm and silence to balance the situation.  I would like to ask them about the things that are not often discussed in social media and the PR side of the arts- how they dealt with the isolation and loneliness, the failures, passing fashions- i.e. the real stuff.  Hopefully, St. Francis of Assisi would be on the other end of the emergency line as he could cut through our ramblings and lack of organisation.

 

If you could collaborate with anyone across any genre or art form who would it be and why?

Lately I have been really inspired by the work of the choreographer/artist Yvonne Rainer. I would love to emulate the freedom, clarity and humour she brings to her work.

 

What do you listen to when you are not composing?

Mostly no music and then intense bouts of Mozart.

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