With no fewer than 13 world premieres, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group’s autumn 2018 concerts explore how music can offer a different way of seeing the world, and how composers use the wide horizons of new music to explore society in all its many guises.

Concerts feature works from leading composers alongside a new generation of international composing talent, some heard for the first time in the UK. The concerts take a broad look at the world – from reflections on the work and philosophy of Karl Marx 200 years after his birth, by composers from three continents, to works inspired by nature, myth and philosophy. Highlights include:

Oliver Knussen conducts the world premiere of David Sawer’s Caravanserai for 14 musicians commissioned by BCMG, alongside Harrison Birtwistle’s moth-inspired trilogy Three Songs from The Holy Forest and the Birmingham premiere of his own O Hototogisu – fragment of a Japonisme! with soloists, soprano Clare Booth and Marie Christine Zupacic (flute) (18 November).

BCMG joins forces with the Arditti Quartet to mark the 75th birthday of one of the UK’s most inventive composers, Brian Ferneyhough. The programme includes Dum Transisset I-IV, Ferneyhough’s tribute to sixteenth-century composer and organist Christopher Tye; La Chute d’Icare, which conjures Icarus’s soaring, hubris thwarted flight and Funérailles, reflections on pianist and composer Franz Liszt’s work of the same name. Ferneyhough has a strong connection to the West Midlands: he was born in Coventry and began his formal musical training at the Birmingham School of Music. The concert also features works by other composers with West Midlands connections: Sutton Coldfield-born Jonathan Harvey; former BCMG composer-in-residence and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire alumnus, Charlotte Bray and the conservatoire’s current deputy head of composition, Michael Wolters. (Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, 9 December)

New collaborations take the ensemble to mainland Europe, including a reprise of the Canal Serenade (which opened the ensemble’s 30th anniversary season in 2017) in Utrecht, Netherlands. Utrecht, like Birmingham, has an extensive canal system; Canal Serenade will travel by narrow boat along these watery arteries with a single work jointly written by UK composer Richard Baker, Cypriot Yannis Kyriakides and Czech Ondřej Adámek for an array of instruments including trombone, accordion and percussion, voice and electronics. (5 September).

BCMG’s Autumn season opens in September with concerts in Trier and Birmingham marking the 200th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth. Six new works by composers Robert Reid Allan (UK) Sergej Newski (Russia), Ruiqi Wang (China), Kaspar Querfurth (Germany),Frédéric Pattar (France) and Celeste Oram (New Zealand) feature alongside works that have emerged as part of the Wilde Lieder international composition competition. Birmingham Contemporary Music Group joined forces with the Karl Marx Ausstellungs gesellschaft Trier, Kammermusikalische Vereinigung Trier and Hessischer Rundfunk to launch an international call for scores earlier this year, and the concerts feature winning works for duo and ensemble, alongside sound art/radiophonic work.The competition has been organised by Verein zur Förderung des Jubiläumsprogrammes des Karl Marx Jahres in Trier. Karl Marx was born in Trier on 5 May 1818. As a student Marx published a collection of poems entitled Wilde Lieder (Wild Songs), from which the competition takes its name. (1, 2 & 4 September)

September 2018 will also see the launch of NEXT, BCMG and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s one-year course in contemporary music performance and practise – the first of its kind in the UK. Open to post-graduate musicians currently enrolled in a course of study at the Conservatoire, or to professional musicians wanting to improve their knowledge and skills in this area, the intensive year-long NEXT training programme includes instrumental teaching with members of BCMG, artistic planning, lectures from guest artists and a variety of performance opportunities. There are also unique opportunities for emerging and student composers to participate in several aspects of the programme to support their development.

NEXT is just one part of the ensemble’s programme to widen the understanding and enjoyment of new music, for audiences, young people and professionals. Over the past season, BCMG’s burgeoning talks programme, Insight, has brought together composers and musicians to shed light on new music, and the processes and connections that make it so intriguing. This autumn Insight events reflect on Music and Society (starting 30 August). The ensemble’s popular out-of-school programme of creative music workshops for young people, provides hands-on composing and performance opportunities for children aged eight to 18; the workshops – Music Maze, ZigZag Ensemble and Creative Composing Lab – offer a route to progression based on age. Workshops are linked to the music featured in BCMG concerts, to which young people receive free or discounted tickets.

Coming up in 2019: March will see a programme that brings together instruments from different musical traditions, including the world premiere BCMG Apprentice Composer-in-Residence, Donghoon Shin’s Sheng Concerto.

Stephan Meier, Artistic Director of BCMG comments: “BCMG’s Autumn concerts set out to find a place for music in our society rooted in the world around us and human experience. I believe that new music, in its capacity for surprise and endless invention, offers a fascinating and vital commentary on the world. The concerts encapsulate the extraordinary freedom of musical thought that makes the music of today so exciting and as shown in our Autumn season so varied: Oliver Knussen and Harrison Birtwistle drawing inspiration from the poise of Japanese birds and “dusty” moths; David Sawer, reflecting human interaction through a form of musical ‘pass the parcel’; Brian Ferneyhough pondering Daedalus and music with no boundaries; composers from across the world offering their contributions to Karl Marx’s heritage. We look forward to exploring these new horizons with audiences, both existing and new, of all ages.”


© 1999 - 2019 Limited. All Rights Reserved