Dear Readers! An astonishing season lies before me, as dreams of entire percussion festivals at major international venues come alive at London's Southbank Centre in my "Metal Wood Skin" curation and at Rotterdam's De Doelen Hall where I am Red Sofa Artist in Residence. But don't get too comfy!! Between these events there is barely a piece in common and the new works arrive thick and fast! Firstly the premieres - following a delightful, highly fruitful and ever-developing relationship between Steve Reich and my ensemble, the Colin Currie Group, we welcome with great excitement and dignity his new "Quartet" for Two Pianos and Two Vibraphones. When I first asked Steve about a new work, I suggested he completely unfetter himself and write in his most pure and ideal setting. The result is an instrumentation which, given that choice, he "would want to take to a desert island" and the gorgeous timbre and chamber-music-like malleability of the work promise overwhelmingly well. The premiere will be given with friends and colleagues dating back to my student days at the Royal Academy of Music and the work is co-commissioned by London's Southbank Centre, Paris Cite de la Musique, Cologne Philharmonie and New York Carnegie Hall. All these performances take place in the space of a few autumn weeks.
James MacMillan, following countless and initially teasing probes as to whether he would/could write another percussion concerto, reveals with vigour and crackling imagination his newest composition, this time for solo percussion and symphony orchestra. Vivid and often metallic in sonority, this work roams freely and inventively via delicate concertante groups within the orchestra, to large-scale orchestral colossi. The work is co-commissioned by major orchestras in the UK, USA, France, The Netherlands and Brazil and will total a dozen performances in this initial run.
Anna Clyne adds an intriguing, unforeseen work to my recital repertoire in her magical although occasionally unsettling "Secret Garden". I sit at a drum-set whilst I collaborate with pre-recorded (and artfully composed) samples of my own spoken voice, reading lines from "The Secret Garden" by Francis Hodgson Burnett (I am named obliquely after the character Colin Craven). The result is enormously alluring and original.
There are not many seasons without a Dave Maric Premiere and this time I've asked him to write a work in reference to a long-standing favourite of ours, the Bartok Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. I've remarked variously on both the need and the challenge of writing for the same forces as this 20th century masterpiece and I am delighted with Dave's approach to the instruments, as ever. This work receives co-commsioned premieres in Columbus Ohio and in Rotterdam.
Kalevi Aho's searing "Sieidi" rolls on as it receives German, Spanish, Australian and Dutch Premieres. Another key work that arrived in 2012 also keeps its momentum up with a US Premiere for Julia Wolfe's "riSE and fLY" with the Albany Symphony, a repeat performance in London and a Swiss Premiere with The Youth Orchestra of Bahia (an ensemble whose energy will be perfect for this gutsy music). Louis Andriessen's scampering "Tapdance" which I premiered at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw receives a UK Premiere, at a concert celebrating the composer's 75th birthday.
My wonderful group has a dozen or more concerts this season, and in addition to premiering "Quartet" we will also keep up our performances of "Drumming" and "Music for 18 Musicians" and perform the graceful and warm "Mallet Quartet" for the first time. I relish so very much the collaborative nature of this enormously fine ensemble; everyone is so fantastically committed to the music!! Our concert in Prague just had to be relocated due to high ticket sales - and other venues continue to see near-panic-buying for our events, which is terrifically exciting.
I'm tremendously energised by this season, with so many repertoire-changing premieres and performances at such wonderful venues - I even get to play at the Sydney Opera House for the first time!
Last word to myself and Steve Reich, backstage at London's Southbank Centre...