Monthly Archive: Febuary 2018

Premiere in the Elbphilharmonie

Posted on Monday, February 19, 2018

Next month I'll be attending the premiere of an unusual new piece commissioned by NDR in Germany, to be played in the small hall of the amazing new concert venue Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg.

It's a piece that takes my love for 'plucked' instruments to a new level, as it's written for five of them - Mandolin, Guitar, Harp, Theorbo and Harpsichord. As any of you who know my career will know, the mandolin part is taken by my dear friend and awesome colleague Avi Avital, who helped organise the commission.

The piece, despite being mainly uplifting and full of energy is entitled 'Death is a Friend of Ours'. I was inspired by a book of poems by Helen Dunmore, who died from cancer last year and in her very last poem she charted a rather unexpected relationship with death. Her final poem starts 'Death, hold out your arms to me, embrace me, Give me your motherly caress, Through all this suffering You have not forgotten me."

I was very touched by this idea of death as a caring friend or even a parent, and also by the book's treatment of life as like the ride a surfer takes along the inside of a wave - something full of wonder but inevitably short-lived. The three movements of my work are something of a response to this and are kind of 'dances with death'. Like Dunmore's poems, the dances take a surprisingly positive and uplifting look at the experience. They are telling us we should take joy from our brief time on earth.

The line 'Death is a friend of ours' strikes a similar tone to Helen Dunmore's poems, but comes from the English philosopher, and native of my home town St Albans, Francis Bacon.

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