Composer and conductor Richard Baker

Richard Baker - Birmingham Canal Songs

The premiere of Richard Baker’s Birmingham Canal Songs took place Sunday 10th September 2017 at 4pm as part of BCMG’s Canal Serenade, with a further repeat weekend performance later that month on 23rd September as part of Birmingham Weekender.

One of the foremost composer-conductors of his generation, Richard Baker is a leading figure on the British contemporary music scene. He studied composition in the Netherlands with Louis Andriessen and in London with John Woolrich, and first drew significant attention with two early works – a trio, Los Rábanos (1998), performed and broadcast widely by the Composers Ensemble, and the remarkable Learning to Fly (1999), a basset clarinet concerto premiered by the London Sinfonietta and Timothy Lines.

Richard’s first BCMG commission, the typically characterful and inventive Hommagesquisse, was written to mark Pierre Boulez’s visit to the city in 2008. His second, The Tyranny of Fun, premiered in February 2013. Written in response to a ‘resonant’ phrase used by theatre director Richard Eyre when describing his childhood in an interview with The Observer, ‘Tyranny’ was nominated for an RPS award in the chamber scale category in May 2014.

Hwyl fawr ffrindiau/Bant â ni received it’s full premiere only just last year, at the Sound Investment 25th anniversary concert in December. Comprising two movements in stark contrast, with players instructed to play independently of each other, at various tempi, Richard’s chamber piece for piano quintet featured the composer’s very own characterful diatonic music box, alongside more conventional instrumentation. Fans of Richard’s work will know of the composer’s affinity with the music box – indeed, the first few notes of Hwyl’s interlude are shared with his 1994 piece for ‘solo’ music box – Crank (repeatedly featured in past BCMG programmes).

BCMG are delighted to work with Richard again, for what will be his fourth BCMG commission, and third Sound Investment commission. The colourful history of Birmingham’s canal network will serve as the inspiration for Richard’s commission. The composer will write a duet as an ode to the bustling arteries of the city’s industrious past, his piece being conceived to intertwine musically with Ondřej Adámek’s Sound Investment commission. The work will take its inspiration literally, being performed on the water, in the first of BCMG’s concerts exploring spaces outside of traditional venues.

Born in the West Midlands, a chorister at Lichfield Cathedral and an undergraduate at Oxford University, Richard has also been a professor of composition at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama.

The premiere is provisionally set for Sunday 10th September 2017, with a further repeat weekend performance later that month on 23rd September as part of Birmingham Weekender