Hwyl fawr ffrindiau by Richard Baker

Jackie and Stephen Newbould have been extraordinarily kind to me on my musical journey. They have supported my work as both composer and conductor, encouraged me when I have been at my most discouraged, and have become real friends. That they have done this for so many musicians during their stewardship of BCMG is remarkable, and is one of the many reasons why the group is held in such affection. In thinking about the piece I wanted to write for their final concert, I felt warmth tinged inevitably with sadness. The oboe – my own instrument – combines these qualities like no other, and thus it is featured here as first among equals. This gave me the opportunity to write for Melinda Maxwell, a player I have known and admired since my student days. Also featured is another of the instruments I play, in honour of Jackie and Stephen’s enthusiasm for it. The title is that of a Welsh children’s song and means, simply, ‘goodbye friends’. I hope they will think of it during their frequent excursions into the Welsh mountains..

Richard Baker

Richard Baker’s Hwyl fawr ffrindiau premiered Sunday 12 June 2016 alongside Sound Investment premieres by Luke Bedford, Zoe Martlew and John Woolrich.

Commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group with financial assistance from Arts Council England and the following individuals through BCMG’s Sound Investment scheme: Catherine and Derrick Archer, Viv and Hazel Astling, Paul Bond, Alan S Carr, Christopher Carrier, Simon Collings, Alan B Cook, Susanna Eastburn, Stephen and Jackie Newbould , Kim and Kay Prior, Lucy Schaufer, Michael and Sandra Squires, Richard and Carolyn Sugden, and Stephen Williams.

Richard Baker is a leading figure on the British contemporary music scene as one of the foremost composer-conductors of his generation. 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.

The position of New Music Fellow at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge (2001–3) inaugurated an important strand of work as a concert curator and programme adviser as well as supporting Richard’s progress as a composer. Subsequent years yielded chamber music, a brace of short choral pieces and a number of songs and song cycles – notably Slow Passage, Low Prospect (2004), commissioned by the Aldeburgh Festival for Christopher Purves and Andrew West, and Written on a Train (2006) for Christianne Stotijn and a small ensemble led by Christian Tetzlaff.

Hommagesquisse, typically characterful and inventive, was commissioned by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group – with whom Richard also has a strong relationship as conductor – to mark Pierre Boulez’s visit to that city in 2008.

In 2010 Baker’s music was featured in the Philharmonia’s Music of Today series, and the same year he wrote Gaming, a substantial chamber work for cello, marimba and piano, to a commission from the New York-based trio Real Quiet. His second BCMG commission, The Tyranny of Fun was premiered in February 2013, and led Andrew Clements of the Guardian to comment on ‘how assured Baker’s ensemble writing is, and how vividly it fleshes out its structural frame’.

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