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Round-ups 2022 2022 Contemporary Music highlights with BEN LUNN

TILEN LEBAR is a Slovenian composer, whose music is raw, beautiful and austere. A young man with a great sense of humour, who greeted me: “Ah! Tovariscz Ben!” His work won him the RKST21 Commissie prize, and he is a composer to keep an eye out for.

Zeno Baldi is a canny composer from Italy. My work featured alongside his in the Ensemble Proton Bern’s ProtonWerk project.

His piece Copia Carbone (not to be confused with a pasta dish) means carbon copy, the principle from which the work is built.

It is a gorgeous interplay between acoustic ensemble and electronically produced arpeggios (all based on sounds of the ensemble) to create a work where the physical and the immaterial blend into a seamless and mesmerising whole.

Baldi’s music is as refreshing as it is unique and worthy of a dedicated performance in Britain.

Lotte Betts-Dean is an Ozzy Mezzo who has established herself in Britain as a great champion of living composers, as well as a notable performer of older works too.

The work which shows off her talents and matches them perfectly with a composer is Elided Compressed by Stuart MacRae.

Scored for voice and electronics, it sets words by Alwynne Pritchard and is a rich canvas of vocal sounds all originally produced by Lotte and then magically warped to the vision of the composer.

The work is a vocal tour de force, masterfully treated, and one I sincerely hope that other singers will tackle.

That said, Betts-Dean handled it with such elegance that it was obviously built with her instrument in mind. It challenges other singers to match this incredible partnership.

In June 2022, I worked with Drake Music Scotland and the Hebrides Ensemble to produce a concert at the Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, which was both accessible to disabled audiences, and featured the work of disabled composers and musicians.

Among numerous newly commissioned works, one particular composer stood out: Sarah Lianne Lewis. She is currently associated with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW).

Her work, Ocean of Stars, is simply astounding. It is scored for cello and a fascinating instrument called the digital harp (an electronic harp designed for a disabled musician). I sincerely hope readers of the Morning Star in Wales will go and seek her out.

Gavin Higgins, who is also associated with the BBC NOW, presented his concerto grosso for brass band and orchestra at the Proms.

Performed by Tredegar Band and the BBC NOW, it is an important work, not least because it was the first appearance of a brass band in the Proms for nearly 40 years, and when the composer was interviewed in Radio Three he spoke about the brass band in the context of class.

The world is a richer place when composers speak up about class.

Helena Sorokina is a Latvian Mezzo who performed a recital of works in Riga for solo voice (most of which were composed during the height of the pandemic).

The works were predominantly by Latvian and Austrian composers, and showed a real array of musical ideas, which is always refreshing in recitals of that nature. The work which stood out to me was by Liva Bluma, a Latvian composer, whose work is one of the best reflections of life in lockdown.

This vaguely theatrical work slowly unfolds with repetitive motifs which become more and more intense and panic-inducing, as both listeners and singer struggled to keep track of all the threads and trains of thought.

Liva’s music has grown in character over the years and it is with a great sense of anticipation that we await what she composes next. And Helena’s skill and dedication to living composers is another rare treat. She is an exceptional musician to keep your eye on.

The world since lockdown has been met with a flood of work. While I have been fortunate enough to be in demand, and to meet these exceptional musicians, I hope that the coming year will be one of calm and filled with good music making.

See you all in the new year!


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