BASCA Composer Award 2017 Nominees Revealed

Advocates of an art form like me (I see myself as an advocate not an art form, by the way) bang on and on about the emotional impact music can have.

That why seeing endeavours like the BASCA Composer Awards (nominees below) aren’t merely an opportunity to attend a ‘swanky event’, more a prompt to explore new stuff free of the usual historical baggage that comes with standard repertoire.

There are a handful of familiar names on the nominees list for this year’s awards: Helen Grime, Deborah Pritchard, Sally Beamish, Stuart McRae, and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies. Delightful to see Edward Gregson appear on the list too (any wind band player will remember the man for his Festivo).

The rest are unknown to me. Glorious opportunities for new discoveries.

BASCA – the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors – describes itself as ‘an independent professional association representing music writers in all genres, from songwriting to media and contemporary classical to jazz’.

The Composer Awards are dished out on Wednesday 6 December.

It’s a BBC Radio 3 gig too. Not quite sure whether that means its being broadcast live or not. If it isn’t, I’d just like to point out at that I’ve never been to an awards ceremony before.

You know, just saying.


Amateur or Young Performers
The Feast That Went Off With A Bang by Ed Hughes
The Hogboon by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies
Who We Are by Kerry Andrew

Chamber Ensemble
Khadambi’s House by Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian
Skin by Rebecca Saunders
The wreck of former boundaries by Aaron Cassidy

Affix Stamp Here by Leo Chadburn
Proclamation of the Republic by Andrew Hamilton
The Temptations of Christ by Barnaby Martin

Community or Educational Project
Anything but Bland by Brian Irvine
BIRDS and other Stories by Emily Peasgood
Crossing Over by Emily Peasgood

Contemporary Jazz Composition
Loop Concerto for jazz trio & large ensemble by Benjamin Oliver
Muted Lines by Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian
You Are My World by Robert Mitchell

Forest by Tansy Davies
Torus (Concerto for Orchestra) by Emily Howard
Two Eardley Pictures by Helen Grime

Small Chamber
In Feyre Foreste by Robin Haigh
Omloop Het Ives by Laurence Crane
Tuvan Songbook by Christian Mason

Solo or Duo
Inside Colour by Deborah Pritchard
Merula Perpetua by Sally Beamish
Piano Sonata No. 2 by Stuart MacRae

Sonic Art
cloud-cuckoo-island by Hanna Tuulikki
Luminous Birds by Kathy Hinde
Untitled Valley of Fear by Sam Salem

Stage Works
4.48 Psychosis by Philip Venables
Empty Hand, Peaceful Mind by Ben Gaunt
The Tempest by Sally Beamish

Wind Band or Brass Band
Anemoi by Joseph Davies
Four Études by Edward Gregson
In Ictu Oculi by Kenneth Hesketh

LSO: Birtwistle Violin Concerto / Knussen Symphony No. 3 / Elgar Enigma / Simon Rattle

It wasn’t faultless. But, truth be told, faultless would have been disappointing.

There were shaky moments in the Elgar – chords anticipated which probably could have done with a moment before they were placed. A premature woodwind cue as well.

Elgar’s Enigma work settled down by the third variation. The strings worked hard – the rapport between Rattle and the section undeniable. This is where Rattle’s impact was felt most keenly, the entire section sounding like one breathing entity.

Members of the string section were visibly moved after the final variation. “That was very good,” mouthed one of the firsts to her desk partner.

Birtwistle’s Violin Concerto is a lengthy and demanding work, for soloist and audience alike, stitched together with a rich violin solo that showcased the technical mastery and considerable stamina of Christian Tetzlaff.

Musically, Ades’ Asyla was the most engaging work – a sensory overload scored by a composer whose concise writing makes for an absorbing concert experience. Helen Grimes’ Fanfare glittered and shone; Oliver Knussen’s third symphony resonated with warmth and passion.

Rattle began his formal public-facing relationship with the LSO with a bold statement of intent – a programme celebrating British composers that gives the UK concert scene a shot in the arm. A bold start to a new relationship a lot of us have considerable hopes pinned on.

I can’t think of any other cultural experience where an ongoing professional relationship can be witnessed.

The opportunity to witness a developing relationship and discern the resulting change in the auditorium makes Rattle and the LSO not just a brilliant musical pairing, but one underpinned by drama.

A faultless performance would have denied us jeopardy. What we’re left with now is the concert-hall equivalent of a cliffhanger just without the peril, and the promise of an ongoing story. That’s something the classical music world desperately needs right now.

Proms 2009: Prom 30 – Grime Knussen Stravinsky Jeux de cartes

As Proms experiences go this season, Prom 30 was a little odd.

I’d wanted to go to the Royal Albert Hall to put right my embarrassing attendance rate (there are an increasing number of concerts where I’ve left during the interval). I was also interested in the bitty programme of unheard of names and works. Respighi I’d heard of and I’d heard of Oliver Knussen though none of his compositions. The UK premiere of a short piece of music by a composer I’d never heard of seemed tempting too. There was also something appealing about attending a concert I figured not many other people would go along to as well. The atmosphere is always a lot more relaxed when there are quite so many people in the hall.

At some point during the day however, I had this bizarre idea it might be interesting to get some audience reactions to contemporary music straight after it had been listened to. This ridiculous idea expanded to include a possible interview with one of the composers of the music and before I knew what I was proposing to myself, my Friday night jaunt to the Albert Hall had turned into work.

When I arrived at the Albert Hall the reality of such wild ideas did dawn on me. There’s a reason television programmes take a long time to organise … because they take a long time to organise. People need to be briefed on what they need to provide. Contributors need to be sourced. Interviewees need to be cajoled. And support staff need to be pinned down. It didn’t take long to realise that what had seemed like a brilliant idea at eleven o clock in the morning wasn’t standing on it’s own two feet some six hours later.

I spent a long time running around the Albert Hall looking for people to interview. I had one person in mind and was fairly certain I could find that person either in their seat or in one of the many bars in and around the Hall. My search was fruitless. When I did a final desperate sweep of the Albert Hall backstage bumping into a couple of smiling if bemused radio producers, I knew it was probably time to give up on the whole thing.

However, mid-way through Helen Grimes’ UK premiere of her work Virga and somewhere towards the end of Oliver Knussen’s Horn Concerto in the first half (there’s an interesting horn player’s view on the concerto available on ribruce’s blog), I realised there might be one way of salvaging the initial idea. The interview I had arranged before the concert with one season ticket holder in the queue still needed to be pursued. The tail end of which is included in this post to be going on with. (The rest takes just a little bit of doctoring, but be sure to keep an eye out for it in the next few days.)

As for the music … I’ve now (finally) consumed all of the concert across a variety of different platforms. The first half in the Royal Albert Hall arena on the night, the entire second half on the radio with a spattering of both on television.

Season ticket holder and game interviewee Scott was right about the Stravinsky ballet in the second half. It was indeed the best bit of the concert and put pay to my flippant conclusion that the problem with listening to Stravinsky ballet scores without the dancers is that they’re required. (Interestingly however, Jeu de cartes is quite possibly the only score alongside Firebird which doesn’t make me yearn for people leaping around on stage. I can’t put my finger on why as yet.)

Listening to the radio broadcast did mean I got to hear the brilliant contributions from conductor Oliver Knussen whose heads-up about the various references to different compositions scattered throughout Jeu de cartes made for a more intense listening experience, more satisfying perhaps than being in the arena. I’ve yet to hear the Beethoven Symphony No. 5 snippets Knussen signposted, but I’m certain a repeat listen will rectify that.

  • Thanks to @petergregson and Scott Cooper for their contributions in the snippet of interview above. Apologies for the aspect ratio issue in the video which makes for a slightly odd viewing experience.
  • Listen to Prom 30 on Radio 3 (first half / second half) or watch the adorable Suzy Klein aided and abetted by Mr Zeb Soanes in a purple striped shirt playing poker with Anthony Holden. Keep an eye out for a cracking interview with conductor and composer Oliver Knussen in the interval.
  • Horn player ribruce’s review on Martin Owen’s performance of Knussen’s Horn Concert