Post development, Oboe, looking ahead

It’s been a while since I last checked in and there has been a lot of composing going on, as well as being on quite a high from a great week at Snape Maltings with La Nuova Music and preparing for the upcoming premiere of my song cycle On Bunyah.

The week I spent at Snape Maltings with La Nuova Musica was truly inspiring. The ensemble under the direction of David Bates took to my music with the kind of enthusiasm you dream of from musicians/collaborators. They understood what I was aiming for and brought their consummate skills and deep knowledge of baroque performance practice to both realising the baroque aspects of my work whilst keeping very much within my own harmonic, melodic and rhythmic vocabulary. This meant that I was able to see my characters come to life and test the overall aesthetic of the piece. We managed to test a good chunk of what will ultimately be a full length opera (2hrs) and now begins the process of composing at least half of it before further workshops on the piece in the USA in Autumn 2019.

After these workshops I took a week or so off in which I started doing lots of listening to oboe music. This was in preparation for the piece I am currently composing, a new oboe concerto. The piece has been commissioned by 5 ensembles in Australia, Spain, German and the UK and is for two soloists, Ben Opie and Sarah Roper.

The way I have started the piece has been to compose about 9 A4 pages of solo oboe music. I am pretty sure this will make up the bulk of the material for the piece. I’ve then refined this material and grouped it into sections which will become 3 movements of a 20 minute work. I’m currently about 3 minutes into the piece (1st mvt) and it’s quite fast music, which always takes longer to compose.

It is a strange thing writing a concerto (my first) especially on the back of lots of vocal works. The soloist is similar to a voice in that the orchestra around it needs to give it space to be heard as a soloist and therefore takes on a type of accompanying or supporting role. But this is not the limit to the orchestra, they are also developing the oboe material, giving it greater depth and pushing the soloist on through the work. The piece is in its early stages and I’m still developing this relationship between soloist and orchestra, but the similarity to writing for voices and ensembles is certainly guiding my understanding of what a concerto might be.

I am now in the last week of so before the premiere of my song cycle On Bunyah by Mark Padmore and the Britten Sinfonia. I’ve got rehearsals to go to and I’m quite excited to see how the music I’ve written takes shape in the hands and voices of the fantastic musicians who will be performing the cycle.

In the near future I’ll be hoping on a plane to Australia to be part of rehearsals for my latest opera Ned Kelly which was announced last week as part of the Perth Festival. There will be lots more about the rehearsals and preparations for this new work in the next blog post I’m sure.

Luke Styles