Author Topic: Judith Weir (1954 -)  (Read 3739 times)

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Offline Mirror Image

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Judith Weir (1954 -)
« on: April 04, 2012, 07:29:49 PM »
Judith Weir (1954 -)



Judith Weir's interests in narrative, folklore and theatre have found expression in a wide range of musical invention. She is the composer and librettist of three operas (A Night at the Chinese Opera, The Vanishing Bridegroom and Blond Eckbert). Folk music from the British Isles and beyond has influenced her extended series of pieces for the Schubert Ensemble. For many years she has written music for performances in England and India with storyteller Vayu Naidu; and she has worked on numerous film and music collaborations with Margaret Williams, the most recent being Armida, a one-hour television opera commissioned by Channel 4 and first shown in 2006.

During a period in the 1990s as resident composer with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, she wrote several new works for orchestra and chorus (including Forest and We are Shadows) and has also been commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra (Music Untangled and Natural History) the Minnesota Orchestra (The Welcome Arrival of Rain) and Carnegie Hall (woman.life.song, a song cycle written for Jessye Norman).

Judith Weir was born into a Scottish family in 1954, but grew up near London. She was an oboe player, performing with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, and had a few composition lessons with John Tavener during her schooldays. She attended Cambridge University, where her composition teacher was Robin Holloway, and on leaving there spent several years as a community musician in rural southern England. She then returned to Scotland to work as a university teacher in Glasgow. Since the 1990s she has been based in London, and was artistic director of the Spitalfields Festival for six years. She has continued to teach, most recently as Fromm Foundation Visiting Professor at Harvard University during 2004, and at present, as a Research Professor at Cardiff University. In December 2007, she was presented with the Queen's Medal for Music by HM The Queen and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen's Music. In January 2008, over fifty over her works for all possible media were performed during Telling The Tale, a three-day retrospective of her music, hosted by the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Centre, London.

Judith Weir is now at work on a new opera which will receive its first performances at the Bregenzer Festspiele, Austria, in 2011. Her children's opera Das Geheimnis der schwarzen Spinne received thirteen performances from the Hamburg Staatsoper in 2009.

[Biography taken from NMC Records website]

What does everybody think of Weir's music? I heard a piece of hers a few years ago called Forest and was completely enchanted from start to finish. The orchestration, melodic narrative, and her overall musical persona was beautiful and highly lyrical. I bought a recording tonight of some of her orchestral music on NMC (w/ Brabbins conducting the BBC Symphony) that sounded really good. I will explore this composer more as time moves along.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2012, 08:03:01 AM »
Nobody likes Weir's music here? ??? I'm surprised.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline springrite

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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2012, 08:06:57 AM »
Know the name very well but not the music at all. It seems she is only female living composer whom I know the name well but have not heard a note of music, unlike Gubaidulina, Saariaho, Zwilich, Towers, Chen Yi, Ustlovskaya, etc., all represented with multiple recordings.  Shame on me!
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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2012, 10:21:18 AM »
Know the name very well but not the music at all. It seems she is only female living composer whom I know the name well but have not heard a note of music, unlike Gubaidulina, Saariaho, Zwilich, Towers, Chen Yi, Ustlovskaya, etc., all represented with multiple recordings.  Shame on me!

Well don't feel bad, Paul. I have only just come to get to know her music myself. Shame on me too! I have yet to hear any of Ustlovskaya's music so shame on me twice! ;) :D
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline UB

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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2012, 01:06:13 PM »
In 2008 the Barbican did a weekend of her music and in 2003 (or 4) R3 had her as Composer of the Week which is where I recorded most of her music that I have with me. I think my favorite work is a short 4 minute piece for a pair of double basses called "What Sound will Chase Elephants away". Of her longer works I would suggest Moon and Stars for orchestra and chorus. She really likes to write for voice and has a number of short operas my favorite is "A night at the Chinese opera."
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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2012, 01:54:41 PM »
In 2008 the Barbican did a weekend of her music and in 2003 (or 4) R3 had her as Composer of the Week which is where I recorded most of her music that I have with me. I think my favorite work is a short 4 minute piece for a pair of double basses called "What Sound will Chase Elephants away". Of her longer works I would suggest Moon and Stars for orchestra and chorus. She really likes to write for voice and has a number of short operas my favorite is "A night at the Chinese opera."

Thanks for sharing this. I noticed, too, that she seems to have an affinity for the human voice, but I'll be anxious to hear this disc I have coming of some of her orchestral works.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline UB

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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #6 on: April 05, 2012, 03:00:15 PM »
Thanks for sharing this. I noticed, too, that she seems to have an affinity for the human voice, but I'll be anxious to hear this disc I have coming of some of her orchestral works.

What is on the CD?
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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #7 on: April 05, 2012, 03:14:15 PM »
What is on the CD?

It's the Brabbins-led NMC recording which features The Welcome Arrival of Rain, Natural History, Moon and Star, Forest, and Heroic Strokes of the Bow. Do you have this recording too?

Here's the link:

http://www.nmcrec.co.uk/recording/welcome-arrival-rain
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #8 on: April 05, 2012, 04:58:07 PM »
I listened to the extracts from Judith Weir's music available via the link.

Pleasant music, reminiscent of Tippett and Britten I thought, and not what I was expecting :)

Then I looked her up on Wikipedia and read this:

Allgemeine newspaper on 25 July, had these observations: "The music of Judith Weir, who also wrote the libretto for her opera, is neither avant-garde nor experimental but has a highly distilled folkloric style with cantabile voices similar to that of Britten without becoming retrospective. Tonality and atonality are not applied in a strictly antithetical manner, therefore the ideas of the American minimalists Reich and Riley are very present. This music has colour and a rhythmic pulse; it creates characteristic sounds without losing itself in descriptive patterns." Being a co-production with the Royal Opera House, Miss Fortune moved to London in March 2012, garnering at least two negative reviews. Edward Seckerson in The Independent wrote of "Miss Fortune in name and deed" and described the opera as "silly and naive" and "a waste of talent and resources," with a libretto that "vacillates between the banal and the unintentionally comedic (or is that irony?), full of truisms and clunky metaphors" and "about as streetwise as a visitor from Venus."Andrew Clements wrote in the Guardian of "a long two hours in the opera house" with scenes that "follow like cartoonish tableaux, without real characterisation, or confrontation, and without suggesting a dramatic shape.

Ouch :o

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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #9 on: April 05, 2012, 05:02:35 PM »
I listened to the extracts from Judith Weir's music available via the link.

Pleasant music, reminiscent of Tippett and Britten I thought, and not what I was expecting :)

Then I looked her up on Wikipedia and read this:

Allgemeine newspaper on 25 July, had these observations: "The music of Judith Weir, who also wrote the libretto for her opera, is neither avant-garde nor experimental but has a highly distilled folkloric style with cantabile voices similar to that of Britten without becoming retrospective. Tonality and atonality are not applied in a strictly antithetical manner, therefore the ideas of the American minimalists Reich and Riley are very present. This music has colour and a rhythmic pulse; it creates characteristic sounds without losing itself in descriptive patterns." Being a co-production with the Royal Opera House, Miss Fortune moved to London in March 2012, garnering at least two negative reviews. Edward Seckerson in The Independent wrote of "Miss Fortune in name and deed" and described the opera as "silly and naive" and "a waste of talent and resources," with a libretto that "vacillates between the banal and the unintentionally comedic (or is that irony?), full of truisms and clunky metaphors" and "about as streetwise as a visitor from Venus."Andrew Clements wrote in the Guardian of "a long two hours in the opera house" with scenes that "follow like cartoonish tableaux, without real characterisation, or confrontation, and without suggesting a dramatic shape.

Ouch :o

Yeah, I'm getting to where I don't even read critics' reviews anymore. Not that I ever put much stock into what a critic has to say about the music. :) It seems like there's just no pleasing them.

Yes, Colin, I did notice the Tippett/Britten connection in her music and God bless her for it! :D Being a Tippettian fanboy, I'm always willing to give composers who he influenced a whirl.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2012, 05:05:34 PM »
"Tippettian fanboy" :-X ;D

That's a new one ;D ;D

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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2012, 05:13:51 PM »
"Tippettian fanboy" :-X ;D

That's a new one ;D ;D

Yeah, I can't believe I even typed that. :-[
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Offline UB

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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2012, 05:15:12 PM »
It's the Brabbins-led NMC recording which features The Welcome Arrival of Rain, Natural History, Moon and Star, Forest, and Heroic Strokes of the Bow. Do you have this recording too?

Here's the link:

http://www.nmcrec.co.uk/recording/welcome-arrival-rain

I do not have the CD but I have all the pieces from other sources...It is a good mixture of orchestral and orchestra with singing you should enjoy them all. If you get a chance listen to her piano concerto and piano trio
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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2012, 05:21:40 PM »
I do not have the CD but I have all the pieces from other sources...It is a good mixture of orchestral and orchestra with singing you should enjoy them all. If you get a chance listen to her piano concerto and piano trio

Thanks, UB. I saw that recording of her Piano Concerto. I'll probably get that next.
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline Luke

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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2012, 12:00:44 AM »
I do not have the CD but I have all the pieces from other sources...It is a good mixture of orchestral and orchestra with singing you should enjoy them all. If you get a chance listen to her piano concerto and piano trio

Yes, the NMC twofer which includes these and her other string ensemble+piano works is an absolute beauty, almost, I would say, the essential Weir purchase, though it's not the best-known CD of her music. She is a very individual voice, the Scottishness very prominent and attractive. A family friend knew her slightly, and when I was choosing which universities to apply for as a 17 year old, I was urged to ring her up out of the blue and ask her advice! Which I therefore did, though deeply embarrassed to do so... She was very pleasant and helpful, poor woman! She is, therefore, the reason I ended up studying where I did (Kings, Cambridge, which is her own old college, also the training ground of many of the best British composers, Benjamin, Ades...). Previously I had been prompted to apply there by my teachers but had been intimidated by its reputation. It was that brief chat with Judith Weir which presuaded me to go there. After that I saw her at various times, but never at close quarters  ;D

Offline Luke

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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #15 on: April 06, 2012, 12:04:06 AM »
This is the CD I meant, btw. Lovely stuff, might just give it a spin now...


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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #16 on: April 06, 2012, 05:58:34 AM »
I seem to be going for composers lately that were followers of Tippett. What little I heard of Weir, I definitely hear a bit of Tippettian influence. What do you guys think?
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Offline Luke

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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #17 on: April 06, 2012, 07:17:13 AM »
I don't know about a technical influence, but I hear a similar generousness in their music, a straightforwardness and lack of guile which I value in both. But I don't know Weir's works anywhere near as well as I know Tippett's; I couldn't draw any closer comparisons

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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #18 on: April 06, 2012, 08:50:54 AM »
I don't know about a technical influence, but I hear a similar generousness in their music, a straightforwardness and lack of guile which I value in both. But I don't know Weir's works anywhere near as well as I know Tippett's; I couldn't draw any closer comparisons

If you go to last.fm they have make comparisons with composers. According to them, they think Colin Matthews has a lot in common with Weir.

http://www.last.fm/music/Judith+Weir/+similar
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

Offline edward

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Re: Judith Weir (1954 -)
« Reply #19 on: April 06, 2012, 09:00:43 AM »
For me, in spirit, if perhaps not so much in technical aspects, the composer closest to Weir could be Niccolò Castiglioni. They have the same straightforwardness that Luke refers to, and the same whimsical sense of humour (in both cases it occasionally misfires, but that's more than compensated for by the times that it doesn't). And they both have the quality in their music that Calvino refers to as "lightness".

Which reminds me that I really need to spend some more time with both composers' work.
"I don't at all mind actively disliking a piece of contemporary music, but in order to feel happy about it I must consciously understand why I dislike it. Otherwise it remains in my mind as unfinished business."
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