Harry Moments

We’ve been doing a lot of Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s music recently – because it is fantastic – and because it is his 75th birthday. So, two experiences in the last few weeks that I will remember for a long time.

Last weekend – went to Bregenz for the last performance of Semper Dowland/The Corridor (the new music theatre piece that London Sinfonietta premiered at Aldeburgh and then Southbank – both of whom commissioned it). Amazing place for one, and great to find the band, cast and crew on great form. Everyone has enjoyed this one because it’s been a real ‘company’ project. The musicians never get to rehearse for long on any performance, but with this they had a great lead in for the premiere in Aldeburgh, and then several performances. Mark van de Wiel (clarinet) convinced that last Saturday in Bregenz was the best perf of the lot. Mark Padmore and Liz Atherton stunning. Performance was in the Werkstattbühne – audience very close to the action and could hear lots of new things in the text and the music. Post concert Bregenz banana-split incredible! Can’t do 3.00am in the morning much more though.

Tuesday night – Harry’s 75th birthday concert at the PROMS. Late night London Sinfonietta performance of Carmen Arcadiae, Silbury Air and Verses for Ensembles. Before the concert, we hosted a meal for Harry at Café Anglais to say happy birthday. At the end he said some kind things about the Sinfonietta musicians, and also some amazing things about his composition and his work in general. One idea in particular that stuck with me was about tradition – not about worrying about how to keep something going, but perhaps more about creating something new that then makes the tradition. And then the music…compelling stuff, and a performance that makes the admin work worthwhile.

Andrew Burke

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