Monday 26 September 2022
ROBIN GREEN (Piano)
“In conversation with Robert Fokkens” hosted by Charles Wilson
On Quietude and Dancing
World premiere, 20’
Thomas Adès was born in London in 1971. His compositions include three operas: he conducted the premiere of the most recent, The Exterminating Angel, at the 2016 Salzburg Festival and subsequently at the Metropolitan Opera, New York and the Royal Opera House, London. He conducted the premiere and revival of The Tempest at the Royal Opera House,
and a new production at the Metropolitan Opera, Vienna Staatsoper and in November 2022 at La Scala, Milan. He led the world premiere of his full-evening ballet Dante at Covent Garden, and will conduct it in May 2023 at the Opéra Garnier, Paris.
He frequently leads performances of his orchestral works Asyla (1997), Tevot (2007), Polaris (2010), Violin Concerto Concentric Paths (2005), In Seven Days for piano and orchestra (2008); Totentanz for mezzo-soprano, baritone, and orchestra (2013); and the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (2019). His compositions also include numerous celebrated chamber and solo works.
As conductor, Thomas appears regularly with the Los Angeles and London Philharmonic orchestras, the Boston, London, BBC, Finnish Radio and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras, the Royal Concertgebouworkest, Leipzig Gewandhaus and the Orchestra of Santa Cecilia, Rome. In opera, in addition to The Exterminating Angel, he has conducted The Rake’s Progress at the Royal Opera House and Zürich Opera, and the premieres of three operas by Gerald Barry, including the Los Angeles world premieres of The Importance of Being Earnest and Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, of which he also gave the European premiere at Covent Garden. Recent highlights include Thomas’s debut concerts with the Vienna Philharmonic, and his conducting debut with the Berlin Philharmonic. In Summer 2022 he conducted the world
premiere of Air for violin and orchestra at the Lucerne Festival, a Roche commission for Anne-Sophie Mutter and the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra.
His CD recording of The Tempest from the Royal Opera House (EMI) won the Contemporary category of the 2010 Gramophone Awards; his DVD of the production from the Metropolitan Opera was awarded the Diapason d’Or de l’année (2013), Best Opera recording (2014 Grammy Awards) and Music DVD Recording of the Year (2014 ECHO Klassik Awards). His piano engagements have included solo recitals at Carnegie Hall (Stern Auditorium), New York and the Wigmore Hall in London, and concerto appearances with the New York Philharmonic and Boston Symphony Orchestra. Recent piano releases include an album of solo piano music by Janáček and a live album of Winterreise with Ian Bostridge. His solo disc of Janáček’s piano music won the 2018 Janáček medal.
A haunting meditation in which the presence of John Dowland is clearest where the music seems least like him: a magical illusion as well as a moving homage.’ Gramophone
Of Darknesse Visible, Adès writes:
This piece is an explosion of John Dowland’s lute song ‘In Darknesse Let Mee Dwell’ (1610). No notes have been added; indeed, some have been removed. Patterns latent in the original have been isolated and regrouped, with the aim of illuminating the song from within, as if during the course of a performance.
In darknesse let mee dwell,
the ground shall sorrow be,
The roofe Dispaire to barre
all cheerful light from mee,
The wals of marble blacke
that moistned still shall weepe,
My musicke hellish jarring sounds
to banish friendly sleepe.
Thus wedded to my woes,
and bedded to my Tombe,
O let me living die
till death doe come.
Dowland ends the song with a restatement of the opening line.
Robert Fokkens is a South African composer based in the UK. His work explores a range of influences from traditional South African music to 20th– and 21st-century experimental music, via jazz, electronic dance music and the classical canon, creating a music characterised by twisted cycles, rhythmic energy, and microtonal inflections. The Times has described his work as being “fascinating”, “imaginatively orchestrated” and having its “own engaging quirkiness”.
In 2021, Robert’s work was premiered by the Riot Ensemble, David Adams (violin) and Alice Neary (cello) at the Penarth Chamber Music Festival, and the Villiers Quartet. His mixed octet Lavernock Loops was broadcast on the BBC Radio 3 New Music Show in a pre-recorded studio performance by UPROAR. A film of his and Mkhululi Mabija’s monodrama Bhekizizwe featuring baritone Themba Mvula was premiered by Opera’r Ddraig as part of the BBC Wales/Festival of Voice Gwyl 2021 online festival, and a recording of his 2002 orchestral score Journeys (Uhambo Olunintsi), by the Norwegian Radio Orchestra and Miguel Harth-Bedoya was released on Naxos, and described by BBC Classical Musicmagazine as “joyously polyrhythmic”.
2022 sees new works for guitarist Sam Cave and Music Theatre Wales being developed, performed and recorded, as well as an Arts Council Wales-funded tour of Wales for Bhekizizwe. Other projects include premiere recordings of glimpses of a half-forgotten future by the Signum Quartet and works for string trio by the Karolos Ensemble, the world premiere of On Dancing and Quietude fors olo piano in the UK, performances of works for quartertone flute in Germany, a repeat performance of Pier Music in Cardiff, and the world premiere of new orchestrations of Soshanguve Dances at the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival.
In past seasons, Robert’s work has been performed in major venues in the UK (including the Wigmore Hall, Purcell Room and Royal Festival Hall), South Africa, Australia, the USA, Japan, and across Europe. He has received commissions from the Ralph Vaughan Williams Trust, Arts Council Ireland, the PRS Foundation, Cape Town Opera, the SAMRO Foundation, the Vale of Glamorgan Festival, and the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival. Performers of his orchestral music include conductors Pierre-André Valade, Gérard Korsten, Kenneth Woods and Tim Murray, and orchestras such as the South African National Youth Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, and English Symphony Orchestra. Other musicians and ensembles who have performed his music include violinists Ernst Kovacic, Darragh Morgan, Harriet Mackenzie, Lucy Gould, and Philippa Mo; cellists Oliver Coates, Richard Lester and Robin Michael; singers Ian Partridge, Claire Booth, Sarah Dacey and Patricia Rozario; flautists Liesl Stoltz and Carla Rees; and ensembles such as the Carducci, Armida and Capriccio Quartets, Fidelio and Fibonacci trios, rarescale, New Juilliard Ensemble, EXAUDI, juice vocal trio, Tête à Tête Opera, and Chroma.
His music is published by Composers Edition and Tetractys Publishing, and his debut CD of chamber music – Tracing Lines – is available on the Métier label. The violin concerto AnEventful Morning Near East London was released on Nimbus in 2017, garnering a range of excellent reviews, BBC Music Magazine describing it as “exquisitely crafted…an arresting work”. His music has also been released on Orchid, Naxos, Herald, Prima Facie, TUTL and Foundry labels, and broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio, Swedish Radio P2, Portuguese Radio Antena 2, and various South African radio stations.
Robert is Reader in composition at Cardiff University, and regularly gives masterclasses and presentations on his work at other institutions in the UK, Ireland and South Africa. He was composer-in-residence for the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival 2017, NewMusicSA Indabas in 2008 and 2015, Festival Capriccio-en-Maine 2017, and for the South African National Youth Orchestra Courses in 2005 and 2013. He is Course Director of the Vale of Glamorgan Festival’s Peter Reynolds Composers Studio. Robert studied at the University of Cape Town and at the Royal Academy of Music, also holding the Manson Fellowship at the RAM in 2001-2002. He completed his PhD at the University of Southampton in 2007, where he was supervised by Michael Finnissy, and in 2014 was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy of Music.
Robert is an experienced conductor, currently working as director and conductor of the Cardiff University Contemporary Music Group. With this ensemble he recorded “Only Breath”, a CD of contemporary Welsh choral music for the Ty Cerdd label in 2018, and gave world premiere performances of two recently-discovered early works by PeterMaxwell Davies in December 2021. In 2021 he conducted two of the world premiere recordings for the National Youth Orchestra of Wales’s NYOW75 anniversary project, as well as conducting the world premiere film of his opera Bhekizizwe.
On Quietude and Dancing
1. Commentary 1
5. Commentary 2
On Quietude and Dancing consists of five movements, two of which – the strongly contrasted core movements (Aria and Troping) – contain all of the materials in the piece. These include ideas referencing electronic dance music, traditional South African bow music, a tiny snippet of Bach (from the Aria of the Goldberg Variations),and various other musical styles and traditions.
The three outer movements respond to these central movements in different ways:
Précis simply presents the materials of Troping in a radically truncated form, whilst the two Commentaries revisit different selections of the original materials from both movements in various forms, exploring sounds played inside the piano in the process. This approach – building a multi-movement form out of a small number of materials which are re-imagined and re-contextualised repeatedly throughout the work – is a recurrent feature of many of my larger works.
On Quietude and Dancing was commissioned by the SAMRO Foundation in 2016.
Composer, conductor, and creative thinker – John Adams occupies a unique position in the world of music. His works stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound, and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes; his stage compositions, many in collaboration with director Peter Sellars, have transformed the genre of contemporary music theatre. Spanning more than three decades, works such as Harmonielehre, Shaker Loops, El Niño and Nixon in China are among the most performed of all contemporary classical music.
As a conductor Adams has led the world’s major orchestras, programming his own works with a wide variety of repertoire ranging from Beethoven, Mozart and Debussy to Sibelius, Ives, Carter, and Ellington. Among his honorary doctorates are those from Yale, Harvard, Northwestern and Cambridge universities and from The Juilliard School. A provocative writer, he is author of the highly acclaimed autobiography Hallelujah Junction and is a frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review. Since 2009 Adams has been Creative Chair of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Born and raised in New England, Adams learned the clarinet from his father and played in marching bands and community orchestras during his formative years. He began composing age ten and his first orchestral pieces were performed while he was still a teenager. In 2017 Adams celebrated his 70th birthday with festivals of his music in Europe and the US, including special retrospectives at London’s Barbican, Cité de la Musique in Paris, and in Amsterdam, New York and Geneva, among other cities. In 2019 he was the recipient of both Spain’s BBVA “Frontiers of Knowledge” award and Holland’s Erasmus Prize “for notable contributions to European culture, society and social science”, and in 2021 he was appointed “Honorary Academician” by the prestigious General Assembly of the Academicians of Santa Cecilia, also receiving the “Glashütte Original MusicFestivalAward” from the Dresden Music Festival in recognition of his lifetime achievement. Adams is currently at work on his fifth opera.
Phrygian Gates is a broad monolithic arch roughly 24 minutes long which is built upon a plan that resembles the classic “tour” of the twelve keys. This particular voyage, however, takes a somewhat different route due to the exclusively modal nature of the writing. All the music is sounded in either the Lydian or the Phrygian mode, and the tonal scheme is such that each of the seven different pitches functions first as Lydian, then as Phrygian root. The sequence of roots travels by perfect 5ths half the distance of the full circle: A-E-B-F#-C#-Ab-Eb. Since each of these seven roots has both a Lydian and a Phrygian embodiment, there are a total of 14 sections with the modal oscillation among them providing the structural framework for the music.
The two modes, of course, have strongly opposed affects, and this duality or union of opposites is largely responsible for the music’s expressive content. The Lydian mode with its light, sensual, resonant personality is played off against the more volatile, unstable but often heroic qualities of the Phrygian.
Given the key scheme and the idea of alternating modes, the challenge in composing was to shape a meaningful arch out of the many smaller parts. Each of the 14 smaller sections would have its own special qualities: a different figuration, a new register, a quickening or relaxing of the pulse, a change of amplitude, etc. in some cases, as with Shaker Loops, one section would differ from its predecessor by the manner in which the performer physically produced the sound (cf. the Chopin Preludes). The “gates” of the title would be the moments of change, when some or even all of these elements were subject to transformation.
The obvious danger in an approach of this sort is that the result might strike the listener more as a patchwork construct than as a truly unified statement. Wanting to avoid this disparity, I worked on the piece always with the larger form in mind, one in which the really important change throughout the piece was indeed very gradual. In this sense the music falls into a simple four movement plan that has as its subject the life history of the softly repeated E’s which open the piece. As the music moves through the gates the quietly undulating quavers of the opening are gradually displaced by the stronger, more aggressive 16ths. The energy of these smaller values increases until, somewhere in the tenth minute, it peaks on a grand crescendo of rapidly resounding chords.
This climactic point is followed by a second part which, at a pulse one third faster, eases the high energy of the preceding passage down into the slow third part: a dark calm in C# Phrygian (subtitled “A System of Weights and Measures”) in which the pulsation of the earlier music is now transformed into a quiet, solemn tolling.
This slow tolling is ended abruptly by the appearance of the last section, itself an arc which ascends at high speed (mm.=180) from the rumbling lower depths of the piano up to the “soft peak” some five and half octaves above and then down again in a final “ride out” which, although rapidly alternating modes, maintains its uninterrupted forward motion to the end.
Phrygian Gates was commissioned by Mack McCray and generously funded by a group of members of the board of Trustees of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (including the late Betty Dinner). It was first performed by McCray on March 17, 1978 at Hellman Hall in San Francisco.
“A light touch and an engaging tone” (The Strad magazine), Robin Green enjoys a busy career as a soloist, chamber musician and conductor.
Robin’s CD, Dialog mit Mozart released on the Gramola label, was Editor’s Choice in the Strad Magazine. His recording Games Chorales and Fantasie released on the Claves label was reviewed by Gramophone: “Green… an intelligent and sensitive musician with a genuine flair for imaginative programming.”
Robin regularly performs in festivals in the UK and abroad. Recent highlights include the Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the Interlaken Classics Festival, Davos Young Artists Festival, the International Musicians Seminar ‘Open Chamber’ Festival at Prussia Cove, the Pharos Trust, Penarth Chamber Music festival and the Festival de Radio France et Montpellier.
Chamber music forms a central part of Robin’s life as a musician. Former recipient of the Leverhulme Chamber music fellowship at the Royal College of Music, Robin was the first prize winner of the Royal Overseas League Chamber music competition, the Concours Nicati in Switzerland and runner up prize winner at the International Schubert duo competition. Robin is currently a member of the Odysseus Piano Trio. He has collaborated with Gordan Nikolitch, Valeryi Sokolov, Bogdan Bozovic, Christoph Richter, Christian Elliott, Catherine Manson and Alice Neary amongst others.
Robin is a piano professor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. He lives in Cardiff with his wife and 2 children.