Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment

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Performing new music: we explain all

Wed Apr 27 2016

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And now to play us out, the Chorale we sang earlier, but this time set by Buxtehude @KingsPlace

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Matthew Truscott The Night Shift

“The orchestra’s chief artistic mission is to make old music new. For the OAE, the importance of being involved with contemporary music has over the years become obvious and vital.”

Next week, we premiere Michael Gordon’s new work for bassoon, Observation on Air, at concerts in Bristol, Basingstoke, Bradford-on-Avon and London.

We asked OAE leader Matthew Truscott, who directs the concert, why we get involved in new music.

He explains:

The idea of a period instrument group commissioning new music is for some rather counter-intuitive. For the OAE though, the importance of being involved with contemporary music has over the years become obvious and vital. The orchestra’s chief artistic mission is to make old music new, to use context and investigation to render music with as much vitality, clarity and understanding as possible. Experiencing the birth of a new piece of music, apart from being a privilege in itself, is key to this mission. We learn much through the process and are enriched by the engagement with living composers. Inevitable and fascinating discussions ensue regarding the compositional process, notation, attitudes to urtext, the importance of practical solutions, the role of the performer and above all, context.

We are sadly no longer in the position of our forbears for whom contemporary classical music was the most relevant and popular. Indeed, to be worthy of an outing, old pieces had to be updated; witness Mozart’s version of The Messiah or Mendelssohn’s of the Matthew Passion. We do have the opportunity though, through playing new music, to be part of a creative process for which the context is undeniably the here and now; a peculiar thrill for a period orchestra, a glimpse of true authenticity!

Right up until the 20th century the complete musician would have been a composer/performer, engaged with all aspects of the creative process. We are grateful on this occasion to Michael Gordon for his detailed consultation and engagement with individual players of the OAE in the effort to produce a piece which not only fits the sonorities and peculiarities of our particular set of instruments but of which we can take full possession, and make our own.

Winds of Change

Tue 3 May, St George’s Bristol

Thu 5 May, Anvil Arts, Basingstoke

Fri 6 May, Wiltshire Music Centre

Sat 7 May, St John’s Smith Square, London

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