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.
Originally from Salisbury, Olivia Robinson has sung with various consorts, ensembles and choirs, including the Sixteen, Polyphony and The English Concert under Trevor Pinnock, performing all over the UK and Europe. She has been a full-time member of the BBC Singers since 2003 where she works with conductors including Pierre Boulez, Sir Andrew Davis and Sir Simon Rattle, performing a huge breadth of repertoire ranging from Byrd and Tallis to new commissions by the likes of Sir Harrison Birtwistle and James MacMillan. Highlights of her solo work for the BBC include singing Procula, Pilate's Wife, in the world première performance and broadcast of Francis Grier The Passion of Jesus of Nazareth, and singing Mozart C Minor Mass live on Radio 3 and across the European Broadcasting Union.
Outside the BBC, her solo repertoire includes Purcell Dido & Aeneas, Handel Messiah, Dixit Dominus and various oratorios, Bach B Minor Mass, St John Passion, Magnificat and Christmas Oratorio, Haydn Creation, Mozart Solemn Vespers, Requiem and C Minor Mass, Mendelssohn Elijah, Verdi Requiem and Szymanowski Stabat Mater.
Recent engagements have included Mozart Requiem in Canterbury Cathedral, Mozart C Minor Mass in Ely Cathedral and the world première performance and recording of Vaughan Williams A Cambridge Mass. Forthcoming concerts include Haydn Creation in Canterbury Cathedral and Verdi Requiem in Folkestone.
The ensemble recherche makes music history. With around 600 world premieres since its founding in 1985, the ensemble has been instrumental in shaping the development of contemporary chamber and ensemble music.
Impulses are set with concerts, music theater, courses for composers and instrumentalists, productions for listening and seeing, with children's and youth sound projects, the "Klangpost" and the ensemble academy Freiburg organized together with the Freiburger Barockorchester. The nine-member soloist ensemble determines the international music scene with its own dramaturgical line.
The repertoire includes classics from the late 19th century, Impressionists and Expressionists, composers from the Second Viennese and Darmstadt Schools, spectralists and experimental avant-gardists of contemporary art. The ensemble recherche has released around 50 CDs, and has won several international awards, including the Dt. Record Criticism and the Diapason d`Or.
The ensemble recherche is institutionally funded by the Ministry of Science, Research and Art of Baden-Württemberg and the Cultural Office of the City of Freiburg.
Olivia Robinson soprano
Jennifer Adams-Barbaro soprano
Cherith Millburn-Fryer alto
James Weeks conductor
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins conductor
ensemble recherche includes:
Martin Fahlenbock flute
Jaime González oboe
Shizuyo Oka clarinet
Melise Mellinger violin
Barbara Maurer viola
Åsa Åkerberg violincello
Brian Ferneyhough is widely recognized as one of today’s foremost living composers. Since the mid-1970s, when he first gained widespread international recognition, his music has earned him a reputation as one of the most influential creative personalities and significant musical thinkers on the contemporary scene.
The monolithic La Terre est un Homme, with its 4-foot-tall score and written for an orchestra of eighty-eight, each of whom at times becomes a soloist with their own individual stave, caused a scandal at its 1979 premiere and has scarcely been heard since. The title comes from a painting from 1942 by Roberto Matta, which reminded Ferneyhough of a dream he had experienced:
‘I dreamt of a strange and alien planet traversed by a pitilessly hot sun. It was basically a desert landscape. The remarkable thing was, I seemed to be seeing every single grain of sand separately, not only in its spatial dimensions but also – somehow – in its individual weight. All was in slow, ineluctable motion. Between sharply contoured rocks scuttled tiny, scorpion-like creatures. One senses the extreme complexity but inevitability of this strange combination of leaden, slowly-moving sand and sudden flashes of intensely coloured movement.’
The second giant orchestral work on this album is Plötzlichkeit which includes three female singers, whose vocalise blends with the orchestra like a modern-day Debussy’s Sirènes. The BBC Symphony Orchestra under conductor Martyn Brabbins' direction throw themselves fearlessly into this demanding and densely notated music, to dramatic effect.
Brian Ferneyhough was just 26 when he composed Missa Brevis. Written for 12 voices divided into three four-part choirs, it is superbly performed on this album by EXAUDI. The most recent work is Liber Scintillarum, commissioned by ensemble recherche and premiered at Darmstadt in 2012.
GRAMOPHONE EDITOR'S CHOICE MAY 2018
'Massive and mesmerising ... one of the most remarkable orchestral achievements of the last half-century.' The Guardian ★★★★★
‘Joyously terrifying … Play it loud’ Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise
‘An adventurous disc’ Financial Times ★★★★
‘a jewel in NMC’s already glittering crown’ Classical Source ★★★★★
‘a valuable album’ The Times
'Ferneyhough's 75th birthday could not have been more fittingly marked.' Gramophone
‘the music is sublime’ The High Arts ★★★★★
‘There is something terrifying about this level of sonic precision … thrilling’ The Wire
‘Tremendously engaging … if you don’t know Ferneyhough’s music, this is a great place to start’ BBC Radio 3 ‘Record Review’
Produced in association with BBC Radio 3 and BBC Symphony Orchestra.
The production of this album was generously supported by Stanford University.
With thanks to the Barbican Centre and the Corporation of London.
La Terre est un Homme and Plötzlichkeit were recorded live by the BBC at the Barbican Hall, London on 26 February 2011 and broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
SIMON HANCOCK Recording Engineer
NEIL PEMBERTON Editing
ANN MCKAY Recording Producer
Liber Scintillarum was recorded live by Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt (IMD) during the Darmstadt Summer Course at Böllenfalltorhalle, Darmstadt, Germany on 22 July 2012
MORITZ BERGFELD & OLAF MIELKE (MBM Musikproduktion) Recording Producers
Missa Brevis was recorded live by the BBC at Orford Church, Suffolk as part of Aldeburgh Festival on 10 June 2006.
TIM ARCHER & TOM PARNELL Recording Engineers
CHRIS WINES Recording Producer