The only Birmingham concert of BCMG’s 2014/15 season with the masterful Oliver Knussen at the helm, sets three American works (Stravinsky was a naturalised U.S. citizen by the time he wrote Septet in 1953) alongside two by German composers – including a world premiere from Arne Gieshoff. Plus a late addition to the programme, Alexander Goehr’s chamber symphony between the Lines following BCMG’s premiere of the piece in Cambridge in November 2014.

The most substantial piece in the programme, Henze’s 40-minute Le Miracle de la Rose, is a musical evocation of a literary work of the same title by the French poet and playwright Jean Genet. The poetic content is transposed entirely into instrumental terms, with the exceptional Timothy Lines as soloist evoking the principal characters: the sixteen-year-old murderer Harcamone who awaits execution (solo clarinet); and the poet himself (bass clarinet). Many of the other thirteen instruments represent figures from the Genet book – the judge expresses himself through the trumpet, the priest is represented by the horn, the trombone stands for the lawyer, while the heckelphone stands for the executioner.

Of the American modernist composers to emerge in the second half of the 20th century, George Perle proved to be one of the most delectable craftsmen. Born in 1915, his first encounter with the music of Schoenberg in the late 1930s made a profound impression, ultimately leading him to develop his own rich and complex musical language. His late works Critical Moments (1996) and Critical Moments 2 (2001) are collections of pithy movements (six and nine respectively) in which flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion exchange piquant thematic fragments.

The BCMG/SaM Apprentice Composer-in-Residence scheme is generously supported by The Leverhulme Trust.

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