Author Topic: Harrison Birtwistle  (Read 22527 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Hector

  • Guest
Harrison Birtwistle
« on: July 12, 2007, 05:18:04 AM »
Harrison Birtwistle said on the BBC's 'Classic Britannia', a documentary on British music in the last half of the last century and the first years of this, that he is in the great line of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms etc. " I write classical music. That is what I do." he said.

What do others think of his music? Music that some find particularly prickly and difficult.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2007, 07:10:00 AM by bhodges »

Harry Collier

  • Guest
Re: Harrison Birtwhistle
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2007, 06:20:28 AM »

I get the impression that Mr Birtwhistle doesn't give a toss what anyone thinks of his music; he writes for Art, not for audiences. Bach and Beethoven followed a similar path in their final years, of course. But they were Bach and Beethoven. Harrison Birtwhistle is just Harrison Birtwhistle -- and probably does well out of public funding.

Offline Brewski

  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 12046
  • "Man With No Shadow" by Makoto Tojiki (2009)
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #2 on: July 12, 2007, 07:09:36 AM »
I'm a huge fan of Birtwistle (PS, note spelling) and was lucky to see him discuss a concert of his music here a couple of years ago.  (My review is here on MusicWeb.)

Some favorites: the piano works Harrison's Clocks and The Axe Manual (written for Emanuel Ax), and Earth Dances, for orchestra.  Last year the Cleveland Orchestra did one of his recent works, Night's Black Bird, that I very much enjoyed, at least on a single hearing.

But there are some of his major works that I've not yet heard, such as Punch and Judy, Gawain and The Mask of Orpheus.  Here's a favorite recording that has Silbury Air (one of his best IMHO) and Secret Theatre by Elgar Howarth and the London Sinfonietta.



Fascinating composer, and with a great sense of humor, too. 

--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

Hector

  • Guest
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2007, 03:16:52 AM »
He must be one of the few composers to have had his music booed. That was his opera, 'Sir Gawain and the Green Knight' at the ROH.

The idiots who booed his music were also on the programme, unheard of, like their music!

I like the fact that he has the ability to shock audiences, still.

Beethoven had that ability.

Sean

  • Guest
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2007, 03:46:03 AM »
Birtwistle's a good composer, finding things only a real artist can.

I do like the title The Axe manual- it refers to Emmanuel Ax and piano keyboard manuals, but also the idea of a manual supplied for using an axe...

Harry Collier

  • Guest
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2007, 11:18:02 AM »
.. he has the ability to shock audiences still. Beethoven had that ability.

As Benjamin Britten observed (not unwisely): "and that is when the rot set in!" The idea that artists had to shock, to disregard their audiences or their musicians. "What do I care for their wretched fiddles when the spirit comes over me?" asked Beethoven, commenting on his later quartets. Mozart, Purcell, Bach and Handel would have been amazed at the concept that audiences' likes and dislikes didn't matter one jot. Maybe those who boo Birtwistle's music just think they are being disregarded and their concert ticket money spurned?


Larry Rinkel

  • Guest
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2007, 12:09:17 PM »
As Benjamin Britten observed (not unwisely): "and that is when the rot set in!" The idea that artists had to shock, to disregard their audiences or their musicians. "What do I care for their wretched fiddles when the spirit comes over me?" asked Beethoven, commenting on his later quartets. Mozart, Purcell, Bach and Handel would have been amazed at the concept that audiences' likes and dislikes didn't matter one jot. Maybe those who boo Birtwistle's music just think they are being disregarded and their concert ticket money spurned?



The idea of an "audience" in our modern sense would not have remotely occurred to Bach, for one.

The Mad Hatter

  • Guest
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2007, 12:20:12 PM »
As Benjamin Britten observed (not unwisely): "and that is when the rot set in!" The idea that artists had to shock, to disregard their audiences or their musicians. "What do I care for their wretched fiddles when the spirit comes over me?" asked Beethoven, commenting on his later quartets. Mozart, Purcell, Bach and Handel would have been amazed at the concept that audiences' likes and dislikes didn't matter one jot. Maybe those who boo Birtwistle's music just think they are being disregarded and their concert ticket money spurned?



Well, there's a considerable difference between Beethoven and Birtwistle. Not least that Beethoven knew what his music sounded like before he wrote it down.

I've stuided two Birtwistle pieces. Each gave me an intense headache. I'd never expose myself to his noise again.

(P.S. Yeah, you knew someone had to ;) )
« Last Edit: July 13, 2007, 12:21:53 PM by The Mad Hatter »

Offline Maciek

  • Ban them all!
  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 5200
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2007, 02:38:32 PM »
He wrote a nice Clarinet Quintet. (Well, "nice" in the "modern" sense of the word. ;D)

Harry Collier

  • Guest
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2007, 12:10:59 AM »
The idea of an "audience" in our modern sense would not have remotely occurred to Bach, for one.

Of course it would. Pretty well all his choral music was played to an assembly of -- often critical -- listeners who had to be pleased and had to like what they heard. Likewise with much of the concerto / chamber music. The Grand Duke, or the Town Council, or the Senior Pastor would soon have let forth if Bach hadn't come up with things people liked. And Handel, not having a patron for most of his later life, would have staved to death if his audiences hadn't liked his music.

Offline Catison

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 1181
  • Morty imagines "Organ, fog horn, cello, & kazoo"..
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2007, 02:56:58 PM »
Some favorites: the piano works Harrison's Clocks and The Axe Manual (written for Emanuel Ax), and Earth Dances, for orchestra.  Last year the Cleveland Orchestra did one of his recent works, Night's Black Bird, that I very much enjoyed, at least on a single hearing.

That's the second piece of music I know with a title referring to Ax.  The second movement of John Adams' Century Rolls is called Manny's Gym.  The Manny is for Emanuel and the Gym is for Gymnopédie, as the music has a light Satie quality.  But at the concert I went to where Ax performed it, he assured us, patting his belly, it had nothing to do with any sort of recreational fitness center.
-Brett

snyprrr

  • Guest
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #11 on: June 02, 2009, 12:16:09 AM »
I was aware of Birtwistle's soundworld long ago, but last year I "crowned" my British avant SQs with Pulse Shadows, which contains his Celan settings interspersed with his 9 Movements for SQ. You're allowed to play any number of tracks, in any order, to created your own listening piece, which I find a nice trick.

Birtwistle is distinct from Ferneyhough, being just as dense, but somehow easier to follow. A normal person might think they sound the same, but...

The whole of Pulse Shadows is intimate, violent as some parts are. The existential atmosphere is sustained throughout. What is so curious about his SQ writing is that it appears that he eschews special effects, instead writing tumbleweeds worth of notes. I will admit that I haven't listened to the settings all that much, but for those more vocally inclined, I wouldn't certainly think you would find much to like here. I think this album won a Grammy, or something. For me to be able to listen to like this stuff makes me realize how far down the avant rabbitt hole I've gone (Reynolds, Ferneyhough). The "unattractives" I call them, ha! The grittier the better. Different than Xenakis and Ligeti.

This album would slightly belie his claim of not considering an "audience." It has the power to touch a few in the room, a few.


Offline some guy

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2094
  • Location: Somewhere else
  • Currently Listening to:
    Music
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #12 on: July 12, 2009, 09:42:13 PM »
The problem with the audience argument is that it privileges one audience, the one composed of The Mad Hatter and Harry Collier and the like, marginalizing (at best) or ignoring the audience composed of Sean and snyprrr and James and bhodges and the like.

Which is so blatantly unfair, I wonder anyone has the effrontery to actually do it!!

Birtwistle pleases the audience I'm in perfectly well.

Offline Brewski

  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 12046
  • "Man With No Shadow" by Makoto Tojiki (2009)
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2009, 06:47:07 AM »
Great news, BBC Radio 3's fantastic show Discovering music will be delving into the music of Harrison Birtwistle,
exploring one of my all-time personal favorite "modern" works; Secret Theatre.

Next on >> http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00lk6vd

Thanks for posting this!  Secret Theatre is one of my favorites, too, and I'll be interested to see what kind of treatment it gets here.

--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

Offline Brewski

  • Global Moderator
  • *
  • Posts: 12046
  • "Man With No Shadow" by Makoto Tojiki (2009)
Happy Birthday, Sir Harrison
« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2009, 04:10:35 AM »
Jessica Duchen's blog notes Birtwistle's birthday, with a link to Standpoint where comments can be posted.  The link also leads to a video excerpt from The Minotaur.

--Bruce
"Do you realize that we're meteorites; almost as soon as we're born, we have to disappear?"

~Iannis Xenakis

Twitter: @BruceHodgesNY

Offline UB

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 263
  • In South Africa we have really big cats!
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2009, 09:13:59 AM »
The Aldeburgh Festival's tribute to Birtwistle produced two new major pieces: "Semper Dowland, semper dolens" and "The Corridor."

The first is a beautiful piece based on Dowland's music and the second is a powerful piece that would be wonderful except for some of the very loud high soprano sections. I have listen to the Dowland 3 or 4 times but have only made it through "The Corridor" twice.

May he live to be 100 and continue to write his one piece of music...
I am not in the entertainment business. Harrison Birtwistle 2010

Offline mjwal

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 525
  • Location: Lagorce/France - Berlin
  • Currently Listening to:
    Goehr, Beethoven, William Lawes, Giuffre Trio, Steve Lacy, Eisler
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #16 on: June 13, 2010, 06:07:58 AM »
Yes, that is a good recording - though it should be stressed that the orchestral suite from Gawain is only a taster: the opera is so much richer and more suggestive in every way, my favourite of his works, perhaps also due to the subject matter. My first Birtwistle recordings were Nenia with the London Sinfonietta & the LP set of Punch and Judy, which hooked me, though I haven't been able to hear a lot of his later music. I am still struggling with Pulse Shadows, I must admit. I especially like the fairly early Meridian. I've seen Boulez conduct Earth Dances but couldn't quite get it - it struck me as overlong for the material. I would love to hear/see The Last Supper, with a libretto by Robin Blaser - I only moved to Berlin recently, dammit, and missed the premiere (has it been performed anywhere else?)
The Violin's Obstinacy

It needs to return to this one note,
not a tune and not a key
but the sound of self it must depart from,
a journey lengthily to go
in a vein it knows will cripple it.
...
Peter Porter

Offline UB

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 263
  • In South Africa we have really big cats!
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #17 on: June 13, 2010, 09:18:24 AM »
James - is that just a re-issue of the 2004 cd of the same works, orchestra, etc - which I think was a re-issue of the 1990 something recording of Gawain and Triumph with the addition of Ritual Fragment?
I am not in the entertainment business. Harrison Birtwistle 2010

Offline UB

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 263
  • In South Africa we have really big cats!
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #18 on: June 13, 2010, 08:44:25 PM »
Why does yours look different? Because the cd i pictured on the previous pg was released in 2004 on NMC Recordings (D088) according to the booklet and packaging i have - but it does contain all re-issued material that was recorded in the early 90s and for the most-part originally released on Collin Classics. Ritual Fragment is also issued on NMC009

Yes it does. It is the NMC original without Ritual Fragment. It seems that all they did for this one was change the cover.
I am not in the entertainment business. Harrison Birtwistle 2010

Offline Luke

  • Veteran member
  • *
  • Posts: 2436
  • Tuplet Nester (Fourth Degree)
Re: Harrison Birtwistle
« Reply #19 on: June 14, 2010, 09:47:49 AM »
AFAIK the original wasn't NMC, it was Collins - this was the cover: