Harrison Birtwistle (1934-2022)

Started by Hector, July 12, 2007, 06:18:04 AM

Previous topic - Next topic

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Karl Henning

Karl Henning, Ph.D.
Composer & Clarinetist
Boston MA
[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
nor in competing for the favor of wayward friends.
His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot


Sad news  :(. A prolific and often very interesting composer. I was first introduced to him by Boulez's recordings of his music (the Frenchman championed his English colleague on Erato and DG, apart from a very early recording of The Triumph of Time on Argo, which I only got to know recently). Later, I explored more of Sir Harrison's work —but not nearly enough—. Earth Dances and the opera Gawain I found outstanding. The Mask of Orpheus I couldn't "connect with" at first, but the last time I listened to it, I was mesmerised!

R.I.P. a great composer.
"All culture corrupts, old boy, but French culture corrupts absolutely".


Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen


A sad loss, indeed. I don't often visit his works, but usually enjoy them when I do. I spent some time with his SQs and and Oboe Quartet yesterday, while raising a small dram to his memory.
"A quiet secluded life in the country, with the possibility of being useful to people ... then work which one hopes may be of some use; then rest, nature, books, music, love for one's neighbour — such is my idea of happiness"



...talking to @absolutelybaching on the New Releases thread:

My way into Harry's music was through this disc:

which helpfully includes 3 works of increasing levels of complexity: Carmen Arcadiæ is Birtwistle-lite, in which the mechanisms/ostinati are easily perceptible; Silbury Air is a kind of half-way house, with a 3-part structure that is again easy to hear; Secret Theatre is the real thing, in which all his compositional tricks come together in one of his masterpieces.  (Ideally, you need to see it performed, as the players move about between the 2 instrumental groups.  Or have very good stereo.)

I do agree that his later works (from the mid-80s) are more forbidding and perhaps a bit undifferentiated - there's a rather perceptive review on Amazon (actually of the recording of Gawain, but might apply to a lot of his works) to the effect that the only emotion Harry can really do is ominous dread.  But certainly up to (and including) Earth Dances in 1986, I think there are numerous pieces that will live on, and really define their period.  Punch and Judy (rather than the much-lauded Mask of Orpheus) would be my one piece of choice.
"All the world is birthday cake" - George Harrison


I for one will definitely check that album out.  I just listened to an album the other day (Night's Black Bird etc.) and had also added his string quartets to my list.


A new performance of Earth Dances for those interested:


Quote from: lordlance on April 08, 2023, 03:24:04 AMA new performance of Earth Dances for those interested:

I liked it.  Probably not for everyone but complex turmoil.


Quote from: lordlance on April 08, 2023, 03:24:04 AMA new performance of Earth Dances for those interested:

That's wonderful, thank you - best performance I've ever heard, and fascinating to watch too.
"All the world is birthday cake" - George Harrison


Quote from: lordlance on April 08, 2023, 03:24:04 AMA new performance of Earth Dances for those interested:

(Sorry, in my haste, quoted the wrong person!)

Thanks for posting this! I'm not able to listen for a day or so, but am eager to dig in. Though I like the existing recordings I've heard (there aren't many), these Frankfurt broadcasts have been stellar, and I'm a big fan of Stefan Asbury, too.

"I set down a beautiful chord on paper—and suddenly it rusts."
—Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998)