Author Archives: London Sinfonietta

HOW TO SET THE SCENE (Tues 6 December 2016)



This instalment of ‘How to Set the Scene’ features a selection of works to get you in the mood for our performance of Schnee by Hans Abrahamsen (Tuesday 6 December at St John’s Smith Square). The playlist features Abrahamsen’s own work alongside pieces from 20th century composers George Crumb and Morton Feldman, whose work might help to prepare you for the sound-world of the canonic Schnee.


Abrahamsen: Double Concerto for violin, piano and string orchestra 

Abrahamsen: Let me tell you 

Abrahamsen: String Quartet No. 4 

Abrahamsen: Piano Concerto

Abrahamsen: Flowersongs, for Recorders

Feldman: Rothko Chapel

Crumb: Dream Sequence (Images II)

Feldman: Violin & String Quartet

Crumb: Echoes of Time and the River (Echoes II) 



This season, for the fourth consecutive year, we are working with emerging photographers from the Photojournalism and Documentary Photography course at London College of Communication (UAL). Each of the student photographers will be mentored by Briony Campbell, as they attend rehearsals throughout the London Sinfonietta season and document the ensemble in their creative working environment, capturing special moments between the players and the music.

On Friday 18 November, we were thrilled to welcome each of them to their first session of the season with us, at our general rehearsal with Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset and his quartet in the beautiful LSO St Luke’s at Old Street. Have a look below at a selection of their work from the rehearsal.

Meet the photographers:

domizia-salusest-headshot-2Domizia Salusest is an Italian photographer based in London. As a storyteller, she uses her camera as her passport to discover stories and people. She participated in ECCE HOMO for Caritas, a photographic book and exhibition project for an Italian NGO. Here, she had the opportunity to photograph different aspects of the integration process for women that came from war-torn countries in Italy as political refugees. This project challenged her way of understanding reality and strongly influenced her later works. Today, her new challenge concerns the effects of the unpredictable event of “Brexit” on the new generation.

claudia-greco-headshot-2Claudia Greco was born in 1996 in Milan, Italy. She is focused on social and political themes such as the development and change of political parties around the European Union, particularly in response to the EU referendum in the United Kingdom.

She travels around Italy and Britain taking photos, and aims to expand her project to many other countries around the EU in the next few years.



Xingkun Yang is an international student studying photojournalism at the London College of Communication.

Xingkun sees photography as an extension of his thoughts and views and is really looking forward to documenting the London Sinfonietta through his own eyes this season.

You can view more of his work via his online portfolio here.






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In our debrief for last Friday’s aural theatre performance at St John’s Smith Square, we have chosen to include a blog post from composer Deborah Pritchard who created our very first music map!

In Deborah’s own composition, she uses her synaesthesia to create coloured images that outline the structure of her work. We asked Deborah to invert her usual process and to produce a visual map of Furrer’s FAMA as a listening guide for our audience. The results were both beautiful and informative, and Deborah has kindly put in words the process behind her creation. Scroll down to see some photographs of the creative process and read on to find out more about her approach.

The music map has received some amazing feedback, at the event on Friday night and on social media. It is the first of a new initiative by the London Sinfonietta and we are excited to see what comes next. Look out for another installation by Deborah in December, when she will be guiding you through the sound world of Hans Abrahamsen’s Schnee.


Deborah’s Music Map of FAMA


My first step in creating a visual map to Beat Furrer’s FAMA was to research the beautiful and intense world of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and the home of the goddess Fama (the Goddess of Rumor). This narrative evoked elegiac and translucent images layered like echoes and sounds, and the medium of watercolour seemed right to generate this mesmeric sound world. A leaning towards the colour blue as it demonstrated the fluid and luminous characteristics of FAMA whilst also resonating with past set designs and productions for this work. The addition of text from Arthur Schnitzler’s short novel, Fraulein Else, adds a powerful human element to the piece and I used slightly warmer purples and maroons to show this juxtaposition.

The next step was to measure out the piece in time, and to structure my visual map proportionally to the musical work. I then studied the score and visualised each of the eight scenes through colour and texture, with low to high register moving from bottom to top. Since it would be impossible to represent every single musical event clearly on one side of A4 I decided to highlight what I considered to be important or significant musical events and labelled them consecutively to guide the listener. For example, I chose to label the tam-tam crescendo at the end of Scene 7 since it was a clear and audible musical event. Further to this I decided to keep any vocal writing or passages for the actress in the centre of the map so there could be a keystone around which all other ensemble activity could move. In summary, the task was to create a visual map of FAMA that showed the piece in one glance, guiding the listener through the work.

Whilst this was essentially a listening guide to another composer’s work, my subjective way of working also engaged with my own creativity and sense of beauty. And in conjunction with a delicate layering of watercolour and freehand pen the visual map became both functional and expressive.

© Deborah Pritchard

 After its UK premiere last Friday (11 November 2016) in London, we hold a repeat performance of the work as part of Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival this Sunday 20 November 2016 at 10pm. Deborah’s Music Map will be available on the night to guide festival goers through the 21st century masterpiece.


Last Friday night we were delighted to welcome Beat Furrer to conduct the UK premiere of his aural theatre masterpiece FAMA at St John’s Smith Square, where he was joined by actress Isabelle Menkes, soloist Eva Furrer on contrabass flute and the wonderful musicians of London Sinfonietta. Throughout the night we snapped some pics of the performance. Due to the success of the evening and what turned out to be a very busy and very full concert hall, we don’t have an abundance of ‘backstage’ photos but if you missed the live performance, you can certainly get a glimpse into the evening by taking a look at our gallery. More photos will be appearing on our instagram page throughout the week so make sure to follow us here.


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161111-beat-furrer-david-furrerWelcome to Step 4 of our online step-by-step guide to Friday’s performance of FAMA by Beat Furrer – who joins us on the night to conduct his 21st century masterpiece in its long-awaited UK premiere, along with actress Isabelle Menke and soloist Eva Furrer on contrabass flute. We are also pleased to welcome choral group EXAUDI who will perform the eight-part vocal line.

This step offers a sneak peak into the score of FAMA ahead of its performance on Friday. Note the instrumentation of each of the eight scenes, and the instructions outlined by Furrer – and join us on the night to experience this remarkable piece of sound theatre in the flesh.


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Hailed as a miracle after its German premiere in 2005, FAMA finally arrives to the UK. This intriguing piece of aural theatre follows the story of a distressed young woman forced into prostitution in order to pay her father’s debts. London Sinfonietta are privileged to have composer Beat Furrer join them to conduct this long-overdue UK premiere of his 21st century masterwork, along with actress Isabelle Menke and soloist Eva Furrer on contrabass flute. They are also pleased to welcome choral group EXAUDI who will perform the eight-part vocal line.

In preparation for Friday’s performance of FAMA, we asked Philip Cashian (composer and Head of Composition at the Royal Academy of Music) to create an audio guide for Furrer’s work. Made up of 8 scenes in total, Philip presents an introduction to the work along with a detailed analysis of the fifth scene which should prepare your listening for the entire work .

Sound theatre in eight scenes for 22 instrumentalists, 8 singers, and one actress.


Swiss composer Beat Furrer was 51 when he wrote FAMA in 2005 and already well established as one of Europe’s leading composers as well as having a considerable reputation as a conductor (he was the founder of cutting edge new music ensemble Klangforum Wien).

FAMA is the fifth of seven works Furrer has written for the theatre.

The concept behind FAMA – which he more precisely describes as sound theatre – is taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses:  ‘of the home of the goddess Fama, Goddess of Rumour, a place to which all the events and sounds of the world come and find resonance. This space has an overwhelming sensuality where, there is no shouting, but a murmur, like the sea, that sounds from a distance, or the last echoing rumble of thunder.

Writing in 2001 about his Orpheus Books for chorus and orchestra. Furrer offers an interesting insight into how he considers his music; the narrative, compressed into a single instant and captured in endless repetition, is projected into changing spaces. Filtering processes cause individual layers to recede into the background or come to the fore, thereby generating contrasting perspectives.

I find this way of thinking about narrative is clearly audible in Scene 5 which stretches a minimal amount of music out over 14 minutes and within which musical fragments constantly recur. The drama and tension of the scene, however, never dips for a moment, creating an eerie and sinister soundscape that has you on the edge of your seat throughout. It’s almost cinematic even when listening, as I am, to a recording.



Opening – 53” single, isolated very high harmonics create an immediate sense of isolation.

53” (and recurring throughout) an extremely high pedal that is a disturbing presence for most of the scene.

1’13” clarinet glissandi: this is a recurring gesture in various forms throughout (i.e. 2’57”)

3’29” The first entry of the voice, which over time becomes another recurring element placed in subtly different contexts.

5’49” – 8’40” (and recurring later) Two low, slow moving bass clarinets which create an extremes in register ( in the music. From here on the two clarinets are very much in the foreground.

8’43” Bass Drum roll

9’16” Brief, resonant string pizzicatos and tremolo which punctuate the passing of time.

11’06” pulsing clarinets triggered by a brief stab in the piano which echoes the string pizzicatos. The pulsing clarinet figure is heard at other times in the scene.

14’00”-14’03” A very short flurry of activity that ‘switches off’ the scene.


Helmut Lachenmann Mouvement ( – vor der Erstarrung)

Luigi Nono Das atmende Klarsein

Bruno Maderna  Oboe Concerto No. 2

Bent Sorensen Sirenengesang


© Philip Cashian




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We eva-furrerlook forward to the long-awaited UK premiere of Beat Furrer’s FAMA on Friday 11 November at St John’s Smith Square. Ahead of the immersive aural theatre experience, Eva Furrer, who performs the contrabass flute solo in FAMA this Friday, faced our quickfire questions. Read on to discover some interesting facts about the musician.





What do you regard as your greatest artistic achievement?
To be still hungry, interested and astonished about music.

What do you fear? 
To lose my curiosity and passion.

Which piece of music has had the biggest effect on you?
The music I was not allowed to listen to when I was young.

What’s the most unusual performance you’ve been a part of?
Playing Syrinx by Claude Debussy for my Tibetan Master, Tulku Lobsang Rinpoche.

What’s currently on your coffee table at home?
Always a flower from my garden.

What was the first recording you ever bought?
Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan.

Describe yourself in three words.
Not yet arrived.

If you could have any other profession, what would it be?
A writer.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
My son David.

Tell us your best musical joke.
Jazz is not dead, it just smells funny (Zappa).

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