Preparations are underway for our forthcoming tour to China, where BCMG will perform at the Central Conservatoire of Beijing and at the Shangyin Opera House in Shanghai. The concert programmes include the winning pieces of the 10th China ConTempo Composition Competition and a fascinating array of works by British and American composers, such as Oliver Knussen, Charlotte Bray, Elliott Carter and Sir Harrison Birtwistle. Read what Artistic Director Stephan Meier writes about the music. 

Among those composers establishing closer and lasting links with BCMG is certainly Oliver Knussen, who passed away in 2018, having been our Artist in Association for over a decade. His compositions, although not large in numbers show an unusually high degree of conciseness, making his very personal point of what it means to write NEW music.

He was also largely responsible for BCMG’s close relationship with Elliott Carter, to whose music his own writing might be linked in some ways. He’s been a tireless advocate for the elder American, whose late works on CD (Ondine) with Knussen and BCMG have been highly critically acclaimed.

Just a month ago, we had the extraordinary pleasure to premiere Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s latest work, … when falling asleep in Birmingham and Hamburg, and are looking forward to continuing this very special relationship.

BCMG brings together composers of all generations from the UK and from around the world, trying to inspire answers to what globalisation means for our music.

What does it mean then to write new music?

The European avant-garde of the 1960s found a point of reference in the music of Guillaume de Machaut and his contemporaries, six hundred years ago calling themselves ars nova, as opposed to ars antiqua. Harrison Birtwistle has been one of those eager students of neumismatic notation, and comparing his later writing to his arrangement, you hear what fascinated him.

Apparently, Western polyphony, established very long ago in European terms, lives on, as does its crowning discipline, the canon. Carter’s short piece of the same name is a true one, though only played one round; mirroring right in the middle, inversing and retrograding the original melody consisting of all 12 pitches from the chromatic scale, and still adding new poetic sense and even humour to the genre.

Stephan Meier

Concert Programme

Elliott Carter (1908 – 2012)

Canon for Four (1984, 6’)

Oliver Knussen (1952 – 2018)                  

Masks (1969, 8’)

Secret Psalm (1990/reworked 2003, 5’) 

Eccentric Melody (1998, 3’)

Charlotte Bray (1982)                               

Midnight Interludes (2010, 4’)

Trail of light (2008, 2’)

José María Sánchez-Verdú (1968)             

Machaut-Architektur II (2004, 5’)                   

Sir Harrison Birtwistle (1934)                     

Hoquetus David (1969, 4’) arrangement of Machaut’s motet (c. 1300)

Duet 4 (2000, 2’)

Roddy's Reel (2009, 3′)