NYO 2014 hit the ground running, with two monumentally challenging works in their first concert. Mahler’sheartwrenching Fifth Symphony – described by its composer as 'primeval music, this roaring raging sea of sound' – is one of the most famous works of the 20th century, and requires depth, integrity and emotional intensity, all of which our teenage members have in plentiful supply.
Commissioned by NYO, Larry Goves’ The Rules harnesses the electric energy of a huge orchestra always ready to challenge the protocols of the concert hall. This concert was classic NYO: orchestral music at its most powerful, exciting best.
Mahler Symphony No.5
Larry Goves The Rules
4th January, Leeds Town Hall
5th January, Barbican
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Mahler’s monumental Symphony No.5 is a challenge to professional orchestras who play together constantly – let alone a youth orchestra meeting for the first time and with just a precious few days to rehearse. The composer himself fretted that he had unleashed a “chaos in which new worlds are forever being created, only to crumble”. But NYO’s performances are renowned for their vigour, adrenaline and sheer exhilaration – and Mahler is the perfect match for them.
Broadly, the symphony travels from dark to light, but along the way it constantly zigzags between ardour and anguish. Imagine the anxiety of NYO 2014’s Principal Trumpet Matilda Lloyd as she steps up to open the piece, with a bright major chord that swiftly pitches into a bleak minor dirge. It’s a funeral march, and every attempt to tug solace from sadness is clipped by fierce brass and fresh woe. The lethal second movement opens all fangs and fury, with a barrage of electric shocks. When that subsides, the strings attempt to weave a new mood, but they’re heckled by the woodwind, who flutter and fret and finally dive into the dark. Written in 1901, these two movements almost single-handedly established the kind of drama and suspense that would characterise cinema in the
Dance fever takes hold in the third movement, which spins almost like a carousel, darkness and light colliding with increasing urgency. The fourth makes room for romance, with an ode to Anna Schindler, the woman Mahler had just met and would eventually marry: she appears in the sunlit glow of seemingly airborne strings, gilded with harp. A horn – Mahler’s favourite instrument – ushers us back from this reverie, and the woodwind scamper in, eager to play. Earlier themes return, charging along with the rest of the tumult, until the fifth movement ends in a mood of joy: party music, that the teenagers of NYO relish.
Commissioned in 2012, The Rules began brewing in 2009, when Larry Goves joined Anna Meredith as coach to NYO's young composers. Working in such close proximity to this cosmic orchestra set his mind whirring: he knew the players were “much too clever for me to serve them something straightforward”. Instead, he wanted to feed their voracious appetite for challenge and virtuosity, and invite them to explore the conventions, rites and rules of orchestral music-making.
Each movement has three titles: Transforming Patterns//Superposition//Families and Cliques for the first; Canon X//ConjunctionFallacies//Facebook Etiquette for the third. These titles aren't meant to be prescriptive, Goves explained: in order, they refer to a compositional conceit, a natural law and a social description, and are there to provide “little windows into what the orchestra is doing”.
This is apparent in the multiple layers of the first movement (“superposition” is the study of strata in rock formation), and the transforming patterns adopted by each instrument family.
The third movement takes its musical title from Conlon Nancarrow's Canon X for player piano, in which one musical line travels from fast to slow while the other does the opposite. Goves adopts this structure for the entire orchestra; where the two lines meet in the middle, a surprising, lush string interlude emerges.
The fourth movement, Adoption//Hooke's Law//Schemes, explores how far a line can be stretched before breaking. And the last, Echoes & Resonance//Gravitation//For Rememberance, wistfully echoes themes heard earlier – but with a striking twist. Throughout, the emphasis is as much on breaking the rules as following them: music, surely, to any teenager's ears.
Paul Daniel became Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in Perth in 2009. In 2013, he took up the positions of Music Director of the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine and Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Galicia.
He has appeared as a guest conductor with major orchestras and opera companies throughout the world as well as holding several permanent positions. From 1997 to 2005 he was Music Director of English National Opera; from 1990 to 1997 he was Music Director of Opera North and Principal Conductor of the English Northern Philharmonia; and from 1987 to 1990 he was Music Director of Opera Factory.
In February 1998 Paul Daniel received an Olivier Award for outstanding achievement in
opera, and in 1999 he received a Gramophone award for his English music series on the Naxos label.
Larry Goves is a composer based in the UK. He has written for many ensembles including the London Sinfonietta, the Nash Ensemble, The LSO, the BBC Philharmonic, The National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Psappha, Ixion, The Hallé, 175 East and L’Instant Donné.
His music has been broadcast on radio stations around the world, including BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio 6, New Zealand’s
Concert FM, and New York’s WQXR. His music has been released on NMC, Dutton Epoch, the London Sinfonietta’s Jerwood Series, Slip Discs, nonclassical and PRAH.
He founded, writes for and performs electronics with the experimental music group the house of bedlam.
He places emphasis on collaboration and has worked closely with performers including Oliver Coates, Sarah Nicolls and Tom McKinney. He has collaborated with the artist and neuroscientist Dr Beau Lotto, writing music for his 88-speaker soundwall for an installation with corresponding visuals.
His closest collaborator is the writer Matthew Welton, whose poems he has set in a variety of contexts, including as multi-media and chamber theatre works. They are also recipients of a Jerwood-Aldeburgh Opera Writing Fellowship and have recently written a new opera inspired by the life and work of Frank O’Hara.
Larry Goves studied at the Royal Northern College of Music with Anthony Gilbert and at Southampton University with Michael Finnissy. He teaches composition at the Royal Northern College of Music and for the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain.
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