In this amazing article writen for our Friends Newsletter in 2016, Dai Fujikura tells us about his time working with Boulez.


Dai and BoulezThere is no need for me to tell you what Mr. Boulez (that’s what I always called him) did as a composer and conductor. It's also not necessary to remind anyone about how he radically changed the possibilities for music-making for so many composers around the world by his creation, advocacy and continual support for Ensemble Intercontemporain and IRCAM. I don’t think there's been another composer in the history of music who has done so much for other people and other composers.

Today I'd like to talk about my personal encounters with him. The first time I met him was at the Lucerne Festival in 2003. I was one of the finalists for the Lucerne Festival Academy’s composition project, among whom Mr. Boulez was to choose two young composers to write new orchestral works. The prize also included a workshop on the pieces with Mr Boulez a year before he would conduct their World Premieres. I remember how nervous I was at the thought of meeting him alone in an office room. I showed him two of my orchestral works. He was looking at the score of my most recent work at the time and asked:

“Now you have heard this piece of yours, what is your own criticism?

“There are many things to criticise,” I said.

I started listing the many problems I thought I had in that piece, telling him just how bad I thought my piece was. Half-way through my list he looked up from the score:

“It’s not that bad!” he chuckled.

For some reason, I was selected to write a new orchestral work for this project, Stream State. At the general rehearsal of Stream State, there was a moment when I couldn’t hear the piccolo at the climax of the piece. The whole orchestra was playing loudly and the piccolo just disappeared.

I told Mr. Boulez. He immediately looked at the orchestra and said:

“2nd trombone and percussion (1 of the 3) to play softer”

“That’s not what I…” Before I could finish my sentence, he turned to me: "Trust me"

He turned back towards the orchestra as he'd already given the downbeat for that bar. It was as if a fog had lifted. I could hear every note.

He was an extremely fast thinker - I could never finish my sentences when I was talking to him. He'd always answer before I’d finished, on point, and always very clear. On several occasions I'd see him sitting in the auditorium of my premieres, which was always quite scary. This is another thing I won’t forget. He'd come to me after each premiere and would say:

“Can you send me the score, it is not possible to understand complex music by hearing it just once.”

I always think of this statement when I see music critics writing concert reviews.

You might not believe this, but it is absolutely true that, of all the conductors I have worked with, he was one of the easiest people to approach. I could, and did, tell him anything during rehearsals (not every conductor makes me feel this way, I can tell you!) and his response would always be very simple and direct. To my eye, there was no “ego” thing with him, unlike some conductors.

Dai FujikuraMr. Boulez (for me, at least) was always very logical. He served the music. He would remember everything, to the point of having an eidetic memory. I've met him quite often, as often as one can meet a big star. He'd always ask what I was doing, and where I was going next. Then, perhaps three months later, I'd see him after a concert, sometimes backstage, in whatever country, and he would ask how the concert of my music went three months before. I'd always have to try to remember what the concert was (not being blessed with Mr. Boulez's memory!)

I think that the thing I will miss the most about Mr. Boulez is his sense of humour. He always had a rather “cheeky” twinkle in his eyes and a very sharp humour. Indeed the sharpness of his humour verged on the scandalous…

We exchanged several letters during our acquaintance. He'd send hand written letters which I'd need to read using a magnifying glass. I was told he wrote small so that he wouldn’t waste energy. He was always warm and friendly. He'd talk about operatic vibrato. I'd talk about how a piece of mine, which was dedicated to him, nearly killed an audience member. You know, the usual stuff...

It is always surprising to me that, when I read what some musicologist journalists write about him, one gets a sense that he was cold, unhuman, analytical. To me, he was extremely warm with a smile which would always shine when he saw me. He was very easy to talk to, a simple and modest person. Like his music he was lyrical, with long phrases flowing elegantly and modestly underneath the resonant sounds punctuating his work, like a stars in the firmament.


If you'd like to receive our quarterly Friends Newsletter, you can become a Friend here (memberships start from £50). If you'd like to support our work with composers as well as our expanding Learning Programme, you can make a donation to our 30th Appeal here. Thank you!


Secret Forest


This week we hear from Trustee Ariel Sommer, who has been on the NMC Board since 2018.

Ariel SommerEver since I was a child, I was immersed in the world of music. My parents were classical musicians and I learned the piano and violin. More than just playing music, I’ve always had a deep passion for listening to music and a deep admiration for those behind the music, be it composers or performers. That passion led me to working in the music industry, in roles that in various ways offered me the chance to help build artist careers as well as bring music to wide audiences.

I have been fortunate to work with exceptional talent across musical genres and in a variety of roles at major record companies including Universal and Sony. More recently, addressing my particular passion for the power of music when married to film, I set up a music supervision agency focussing on sourcing and licensing music for advertisers, TV, and Film production companies. My passion for this craft led me to writing articles on the subject educating and promoting what it is music supervisors do to the wider media community.

Every opportunity I’ve embarked on has had at its core, an unwritten pre-requisite: To help artists or the music industry as a whole in order to ensure continued support of musical talent and maximising music’s reach across communities. It is for that reason that I was honoured to join the NMC board helping to nurture and promote British contemporary music. Furthermore, I’ve recently accepted a newly created role in the Department of Digital, Media, Culture, and Sport to be the lead for music and copyright policy-making. The UK’s population accounts for less than 1% of the global population and yet the UK has always had a vast global musical footprint and my goal is to ensure the artist community across all parts of the UK and the music industry as a whole have all the tools to grow globally.


If you'd like to support our work, you can do so by donating to our Anniversary appeal here or becoming a Friend here. Every little helps and no contribution is too small! Thank you.


We are recruitingNMC Recordings, the leading charity record label devoted to the promotion of British contemporary classical music, seeks to appoint a part time Office Assistant to provide temporary extra assistance in our Bethnal Green office.






Part time fixed position, 2 days per week (16 hours incl lunch break)

1 August – 30 November 2019

Minimum Wage


We require some temporary extra assistance in the office, supporting our small team with a range of tasks including:

- fulfilling orders

- general office administration

- social media activity

- updating website content

- sales and marketing administration


The successful candidate will have excellent communication skills, both written and spoken, be enthusiastic about music and have experience of using social media platforms. To apply please email your CV along with a short statement (in the form of a tweet) as to why you would be a valuable addition to our team to: Anne Rushton by midday on Wednesday 17 July.


Interviews to be held in our Bethnal Green office on Monday 22 July.



NMC is an equal opportunities employer and welcomes applications from all members of the community although we regret that our offices are not wheelchair accessible.  Please contact Anne if you have any queries.


In this article from our Autumn 2018 Friends Newsletter, Kate Romano, a producer, clarinettist and writer, previously senior member of academic staff at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, and currently the Artistic Director of Goldfield Productions, gives us an exclusive insight into her ‘Project Erika’. We’re absolutely thrilled to have released Erika Fox’s very first album.

Erika Fox‘Do you know the music of Erika Fox?’ Nicola LeFanu asked me. It was a November evening in 2016 and Nicola and I were eating late-night soup in director Carmen Jacobi’s kitchen in Cardiff, listening to Nicola’s ‘Inspiring Women in Music’ essay on BBC Radio 3. Nicola had mentioned Erika on air and I admitted I didn’t know her music at all. ‘You should’ she continued; ‘you’d like it’.   

Back home, I googled. Nothing. I dug a little deeper and found a small listing of some works via the old Society for the Promotion of New Music (SPNM). Nicola passed on Erika’s contact details and out of sheer curiosity and impulsiveness I picked up the phone and rang Erika. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the wonderfully sprightly, quick-witted, articulate and chatty voice on the line belied her 79 years. And Erika told me about herself. 

She was born in Vienna in 1936 and came to England at the age of 3 as a war refugee. She loves theatre, literature, poetry and art. An avid concert-goer (she can often be found at the Wigmore Hall) she also craves solitude and composes at her cottage in Wales. She speaks with great regard and tenderness for her teacher, the late Jeremy Dale Roberts. 

In the 1970s, Erika was actively involved with the Fires of London, the Nash Ensemble, Dartington and SPNM. Between 1974 and 1994 her works were regularly performed at Southbank Centre, major festivals and were regularly broadcast here and abroad. Her absolute masterpiece Shir which Nicola Losseff describes as ‘consumed with a fierce, internalised anger and passion, expressed in tightly-controlled climaxes which erupt into chant-like passages’ was featured on Channel 4 Television. Her puppet opera, The Bet, received over 100 performances following a premiere at the Purcell Room. Kaleidoscope won the 1983 Finzi Award and The Dancer Hotoke (chamber opera) was nominated for an Olivier Award. In 1990 Erika accompanied John Cage to Paris and Strasbourg and took part in his Europeras 1 and 2. Like many composers, she also taught, including a young Thomas Adès at the Guildhall School Junior Department.  

And then, it all just seemed to stop. 

Kate RomanoI was puzzled and intrigued and most of all, keen to hear the music. But at this point, the only way to hear Erika’s music was to go round to her West London house and listen to it. So I did. After tea and cake (and more cake) and a lovely lunch we poured over large handwritten scores as Erika rummaged in boxes for archive recordings on CDs and cassettes taken from live concerts BBC Radio 3 sessions in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

It is incredibly rare to stumble across a virtually unknown or forgotten composer whose music genuinely excites and delivers, piece after piece. Erika Fox’s language is bold, feisty, uncompromising and astonishingly fresh. Everything is tightly conceived – not one note is superfluous – in a total landscape of theatre, ritual and drama. A highly distinctive musical style emerges from a childhood suffused with music of Eastern European origin. Chassidic music, liturgical chant embellished with heterophony mingle with modal ancient melodic lines reminiscent of Eastern European folk music. She is a composer who is constantly energised by sound and its inexhaustible possibilities. I listened to her music with a growing thrill and sense of coming across a very important discovery. I loved it.  

And so we fell into a trust and a friendship that lead quite naturally to what I affectionately refer to as ‘Project Erika’; an ambition and a strategy to bring her music back into the repertoire and to reach a new audience. To put it simply, I felt passionately that Erika’s music needed to be known. 

I’m the Artistic Director of Goldfield Productions, a charitable organisation that supports composers of all ages and at all stages through commissions, touring work and adventurous collaborations. It’s a bespoke concept tailored to the needs (career and artistry) of composers who we feel would benefit from and enjoy working with Goldfield’s brand of music production and presentation of new music. For Erika, her greatest wish was for a lasting legacy of her music and so a recording was needed.  

Firstly, people needed to be able to have access to this extraordinary music. I left Erika’s house with a selection of her live recordings (in some cases, the only existing copy) and gave them to my friend and colleague Rob Godman for a little bit of cleaning up. Rob put them on a private soundcloud page – the first step of Erika’s digital footprint. 

I then talked to NMC about Erika and was met with warm support for the idea of a album. It would feature six of her chamber works; a selection of pieces that Erika is most proud of and felt were a good representation of her output. There are challenges; the enormous percussion line-up (one player, yet symphonic in scope) is both exhilarating and a tricky logistic issue. Pouring over the huge percussion shopping list, I tentatively asked Erika if there was any option of reducing the number of instruments for practical reasons. She went back to her scores, thought about it and came back to me within 24 hours. No, she said. The percussion is integral to everything. And she is absolutely right. Percussion is often at the centre of her language in a physical, musical and ritualistic sense. The composer part of me silently reprimanded the producer part of me. 


Goldfield Ensemble Erika Fox

We built Erika a website scrabbling around (literally – not online) for old photos, newspaper clippings, reviews, interviews, repertoire lists. Erika has worked tirelessly to bring this material to us and I couldn’t wish for a better collaborator. Nicola LeFanu curated and hosted a concert for Erika’s 80th birthday at Burgh House, Hampstead, London, and her team of loyal friends started to put her name around once more. Fundraising for an album ensued and Erika is generously supported by PRS Foundation Composers’ Fund, RVW Trust, Ambache Trust and the Hinrichsen Foundation. I think that the 100% success rate for this funding strategy demonstrates the genuine enthusiasm and widely felt determination for Erika’s music to be heard again. 

Why does fine music fall off our radar? Erika and I have talked about this at length: lack of a publisher, family commitments, opportunities closed to her due to age (she didn’t write her first ‘serious’ piece until she was 30). But mostly Erika will shrug and say ‘I just don’t know…’ Happily, the climate has never been better for an 81 year old female composer to make a comeback. And my own greatest hope is that this album will be the catalyst for Erika’s wider output to be programmed once again; those who can and do will not be disappointed.  

Read Erika's interview in The Jewish Chronicle here.


If you'd like to receive our quarterly Friends Newsletter, you can become a Friend here (memberships start from £50). If you'd like to support our work with composers as well as our expanding Learning Programme, you can make a donation to our 30th Appeal here. Thank you!


Erika Fox Paths


This week in our NMC Archive series, we're revisiting an article written for our Friends Newsletter by Stephen Johns, Anthony Burton and Ann McKay about their memories of recording sessions venues.

Anthony Burton, former Radio 3 producer and presenter, freelance writer
I can make the proud claim to have produced NMC D001 … but only because NMC decided to launch its CD catalogue with a recording of Jonathan Harvey’s Bhakti that I had supervised as a BBC Radio 3 producer in the Maida Vale One studio in the early 1980s. Producing occasional new recordings for NMC after leaving the Beeb, I only once had the luxury of returning to that well-equipped, blissfully soundproof enclave, for fine performances of two major works of Vic Hoyland by the BBC Symphony Orchestra with Martyn Brabbins (NMC D072).
LutyensOn the other occasions, I was caught up in the endless search for the perfect London venue, which, if it existed, would have a good acoustic and a convenient control point, would be warm, well-lit and easy to reach, and most important would be free from extraneous noise, acoustic and electrical. Memories of some of NMC’s choices blur, for example, all I can recall of St Silas, Kentish Town (how did I even get there?) is the forest of mic stands, lights, music stands and multiple percussion instruments required for James Wood’s Venancio Mbande Talking with the Trees. But I do remember of other locations how hard it was to tick all the ‘desirable’ boxes at once. For example, there was the Bishopsgate Institute on the fringes of the City, where I spent a Saturday and Sunday with Jane’s Minstrels recording music by Elisabeth Lutyens: decent sound and lighting, and absolutely no traffic at the weekend but something in a nearby office was turning itself on and off automatically and plaguing us with a recurring buzz.
A particular problem, especially in south-west London, is aircraft noise. This can be filtered out to some extent at the editing stage; the trouble comes when you have to edit into or out of a take with a plane on it thus suddenly causing a plane to appear in the sky or, more alarmingly, disappear from it. So on the whole it’s worth trying to avoid it. I suppose this must have forced us into a few retakes during the recording of the Jane Manning portrait album at All Saints, Petersham, a brick-built disused Victorian church on a private estate (now, sadly, converted into a house). But my memories are of some especially warm and friendly sessions, both because of the sunny nature of the soloist, and because of all the composers who dropped in for the recordings of their pieces and for the most part stayed for a chat.
Simon BainbridgeIn any case, adverse circumstances can sometimes help to create something special. Rosslyn Hill Chapel in north London, a regular Outside Broadcast venue for BBC recordings in my time and a frequent location for record companies, has a host of problems: buses and lorries climbing the hill to Hampstead, Northern Line trains rumbling underneath, and, if the wind’s in the wrong direction, planes making a loop over Hampstead Heath on the approach to Heathrow. (It also used to have, though I think they’ve now been replaced, a set of noisy radiators which, even after they were switched off for a take, went on making clicking sounds for several minutes.) But it was there, cocooned against all these extraneous forces, that Susan Bickley and the Nash Ensemble – with, I can now reveal, some help from the composer as conductor – mustered the concentration required to perform Simon Bainbridge’s Four Primo Levi Settings with ferocious and moving intensity.
Stephen Johns, NMC Trustee, Artistic Director at Royal College of Music, and ex Vice-President Artists & Repertoire EMI Classics
Opened in 1931 by Sir Edward Elgar, Abbey Road Studios are perhaps the best-known studios in the world. The list of recordings made there across all genres are a roll-call of some of the most important recordings in the history of recorded music: Elgar’s violin concerto with the composer conducting the young Yehudi Menuhin; The Beatles and Pink Floyd; film scores including Star Wars and Harry Potter; Casal’s solo Bach and Gieseking’s Debussy – all have benefitted from the special atmosphere provided by the first purpose-built recording studios in the world. Generations of staff trained there brought a particular feeling of family and stories abound of unlikely combinations of musicians rubbing shoulders in the canteen queue.
Andrzej PanufnikAbbey Road was the in-house studio for EMI and its historical ancestors and its relationship with the R&D department led to technological innovations exclusively for the company. Still in use today are the EQ modules designed and built in the 1960s. EMI’s first digital recordings (Previn and the LSO) were made on its own machine – a reel to reel digital tape recorder mounted above the electronic convertors and processors, all housed in what looked suspiciously like a tea trolley. With a rewind time of 25 minutes playback was not encouraged on session. Still in service at the studios are the original microphones from Neumann that have been recording orchestras, soloists, pop groups, comedians and more for the last sixty years.
The main classical space is Studio One. Large enough to take a full symphony orchestra plus chorus and soloists, yet intimate enough for solo recitals, Studio One has an aura unmatched in the world. A number of small redesigns over the years have seen the addition of a balcony above the large control room and the removal of the original stage and organ, but this is a sacred space and no alterations are made that would compromise the acoustic. Unusually for a London classical recording venue it is completely soundproof - only Concorde passing over was known to penetrate the cladding. One recording made there by NMC was the last work of Andzrej Panufnik - his cello concerto - performed by Mstislav Rostropovich and the LSO in June 1992. Another, perhaps quite remarkably, was Tallis’ Spem in Alium recorded in 1948 by the Morley College Choir conducted by Michael Tippett and reissued on Remembering Tippett.Remembering Tippett
Now a Grade II listed building, removing the immediate threat of redevelopment, and with new owners Universal Music, the future history of the Studios looks bright, but the rapid changes in technology mean that the maintenance of large open studios, in a world where the majority of recordings are made in small isolation rooms and on computers, puts the onus on continual innovation. And it is still possible for anyone to make their mark on this studio – just cross the famous zebra crossing and write on the wall. Painted over every few months, the messages of millions mirror the resonance in the studio walls of all the notes ever played at Abbey Road – probably the most loved studio of them all.
Ann McKay, Chief Producer, BBC Symphony Orchestra
The BBC’s Maida Vale Studios are steeped in BBC heritage and hold a special place in broadcasting history. BBC Maida Vale began life as the Maida Vale Roller Skating Palace and Club. Built in 1909, it was one of the largest rinks of its day holding a capacity of 2620 people, with a balcony enabling spectators to have afternoon tea and view skaters below while waltzes were played by the Palace band! But the Palace only operated for three years and from 1913 until the late 1920s, the building was occupied by a variety of companies including the newly-established National Insurance Scheme. Then, over a period of fifteen months in 1933/1934, one hundred men reduced the building to a shell and rebuilt it with five studios – Studio 1 being the new home of the recently-created (1930) BBC Symphony Orchestra. It was one of the BBC's earliest premises, pre-dating Broadcasting House. When the Orchestra arrived in the building all broadcasts were live, but within a few years, early recording equipment was being installed. 

Judith Weir

During World War II Maida Vale Studios was the standby centre for BBC News, and the BBCSO and BBC Singers were joined there by the BBC Dance Orchestra, then under the direction of Henry Hall. Eventually they were all evacuated – the BBCSO and its conductor Sir Adrian Boult to Bristol and then Bedford. The Studios were damaged by bombs in 1941. After the war, the building was repaired and in the late 1940s the BBCSO returned. MV Studio 1 is still home to the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the BBC Symphony Chorus and is used for both studio concerts (including many live broadcasts) and studio recordings. It can hold a large orchestra and chorus, and an audience of 220. 
Alongside the great conductors and soloists who have rehearsed, performed and recorded here, many hundreds of composers have passed through including Webern, Stravinsky, Hindemith, Vaughan Williams, Britten, Stockhausen, Boulez (Chief Conductor 1971-1975), Henze, Berio, Elliott Carter and Oliver Messiaen. More recently, John Adams, Sofia Gubaidulina, Vic Hoyland, David Bedford, Gordon Crosse, Judith Weir, Mark Simpson, Anna Clyne and Ryan Wigglesworth have joined us to name but a few. Many a fascinating conversation has taken place in the Canteen over lunch!
The BBCSO has been recording for NMC in MV1 since the mid 1990s. It’s an excellent venue for recording contemporary music in particular as the acoustic is quite dry and clean and noise intrusion from outside is minimal. The Control Room abuts the Studio meaning the producer/sound engineer can walk straight into the recording space to make microphone adjustments or talk to the performers, and the performers can easily come into the Control Room for playbacks. There is a small group of BBC sound recording engineers that works with the Orchestra, and they have developed recording techniques over the years to great critical acclaim. And even if the recordings for NMC have come from other venues – like the Barbican or Royal Festival Hall – any remixing and/or editing will have taken place back at MV1.
Night MusicNMC recordings by the BBCSO in MV1 (with apologies to those missed out unintentionally or on compilation albums!) include works by Anthony Payne (Elgar 3), David Sawer, Brian Elias, Anthony Gilbert, Judith Weir, Robert Saxton, Oliver Knussen and Alexander Goehr.
Overall MV Studios houses a total of seven music and radio drama studios, and – outside its classical music remit – was most famously home to John Peel's BBC Radio 1 Peel Sessions, and the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (1958-1998, where the Doctor Who theme music was composed). Anyone who is anybody in pop music has performed at Maida Vale over the last 60 years – from the Beatles and Bing Crosby to Kylie Minogue and Miss Dynamite. And not just musicians but actors and playwrights too – recently Alan Bennett, Simon Russell Beale and Penelope Wilton were all spotted in the building!

If you'd like to receive our quarterly Friends Newsletter, you can become a Friend here (memberships start from £50). If you'd like to support our work with composers as well as our expanding Learning Programme, you can make a donation to our 30th Appeal here. Thank you!


This week we're finding out more about Caroline Nelson, who became an NMC Trustee in 2016.

Caroline NelsonI had been playing instruments for years, but it was only when I went to the University of Leeds that I began to explore contemporary classical music. In my first year, I was approached by a composition student who was desperately trying to find a pianist to take on his (somewhat crazy) piece, and I seemed to be the only willing person in the whole building! After that, I joined the department ensemble, LSTwo, where we performed compositions from staff and students, as well as visiting composers such as Chaya Czernowin and Gerhard Stäbler. 

My interest only grew after university, as I took a job at a music publisher in their contemporary classical department, where I dealt with (almost exclusively) living composers. It was in this role that I discovered NMC through a wonderful listening archive in the office. I was able to access everything NMC released with Chester and Novello composers, and so my journey began … I explored as much as I could, from Richard Rodney Bennett to Judith Weir.

John TavenerIt was during my time in that office that we were working to celebrate Sir John Tavener’s 70th birthday. As well as a host of concerts and events, I put together a proposal to NMC asking them to re-issue Sir John’s Akhmatova Requiem. It had been released back in 1981 by Carlton Classics but the recording was no longer available to buy. I was absolutely thrilled when NMC recognised the importance of having this work on sale again, and the album was released in September 2014. They were not content in simply allowing a stunning recording fall into the abyss. As Gramophone so aptly put it, “NMC deserves nothing but praise for making this remarkable music available again”. It was this experience that really opened my eyes to the extraordinary work that NMC does and compelled me to look further. 

I decided to become a trustee in February 2016 because I wanted to help NMC in fulfilling their charitable aims; collaborating with leading composers, producing high quality recordings, promoting recordings to expand worldwide audiences for new music, and preserving this creativity for future generations. I had gained experience in working with world-class musicians by this point, so felt that I had more to offer the organisation and was keen to get involved.

NMC’s work is a hugely important part of the British music scene and we are constantly striving to record new voices as well as established figures, so that the catalogue continues to be a national archive of contemporary classical music in Britain. Our non-deletion policy ensures that recordings are kept permanently available, which is something that I am incredibly proud of in this day and age.

Being a trustee of NMC is something that I talk about a lot! I’m thrilled to be part of an organisation that focuses on their original (and very important) charitable aims, but evolves and expands with the times to include educational work, special projects and new partnerships. I’m looking forward to seeing how NMC grows further over the next 30 years and beyond. Long may it continue!! 


If you'd like to support our work, you can do so by donating to our Anniversary appeal here or becoming a Friend here. Every little helps and no contribution is too small! Thank you.



All entries in chronological order
3 April 2017
24 March 2017
10 March 2017
8 December 2016
7 December 2016
6 December 2016
14 October 2016
25 August 2016
18 August 2016
27 July 2016