Composer's introduction to The Angry Garden

I was aware of damage to the environment during my studies as a scientist in the early 1970’s, but I am not sure when general abuse turned into major threat. Neither am I sure when for me it became an emotive issue, but now it is clear that it connects to the very being of civilisation. For this reason, The Angry Garden takes a longer-term view, the Earth and human action seen within a broader and somewhat detached perspective, reflected in the title which implies that the world has a personality, one which does not like what is being done to it.

 

The first movement, which had a working title of ‘Creation’, appears from nothing other than the wind. The feel is edgy and ethereal, the minor second being the important interval, most powerful at the words “that would nail God's palm to Time”. The second movement, ‘Eden’, is light in character, more reminiscent of a dripping rain forest than that of Adam and Eve.

 

The third movement, built around the age of the dinosaur, not surprisingly is heavy and ponderous, but with a majesty that reflects the grandness of the inhabitants. Man’s entrance is in the fourth movement, via an instrument that represents early civilisations, the didgeridoo. The choir has ‘primitive’ sounds, gradually constructing the vowels of the Western alphabet. From here the tension builds, phrases such as “more mouths, more land” and “turn up the heat” providing the driving force.

 

The effect of Man was held for the final movement, the crushed semitone reappears as ice creaks under off-beat motifs within the strings. This section ends with the words “the signs of change”, but of equal import is the gentle singing of “and so the prophecies have come to pass”. It was tempting to finish with the warmth of this passage but it seemed a luxury inappropriate to the subject matter, and my own feelings. Wherever one's beliefs lie, nothing is forever, and the opening words of “Stillness Darkness Emptiness Silence” draw the piece to its close, ending where it began, with the wind.

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Artist information

RPO

Founded by Sir Thomas Beecham in 1946, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) has been at the forefront of music-making in the UK for more than seven decades, performing around 200 concerts each season, with a worldwide audience of more than half a million. Its home base at London’s Cadogan Hall serves as a springboard for seven principal residencies as well as more than forty-five concerts per year in long-term partnership venues across the country, often in areas where access to live orchestral music is very limited. In London, its regular performances are complemented by a distinguished series at the Royal Festival Hall, and it is Associate Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall.

 

The RPO’s principal conductors have included Rudolf Kempe, Antal Doráti, André Previn, and Vladimir Ashkenazy. The repertoire has encompassed every strand of music from the core classical repertoire to music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and works by leading contemporary composers. The RPO is unafraid to push boundaries and is equally at home recording video game, film and television soundtracks and working with pop stars, as it is performing the great symphonic repertoire. As a respected cultural ambassador, the RPO enjoys a busy schedule of international touring.

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City of London Choir

The City of London Choir was founded in 1963 and is a “leader among non-professional choruses” in the words of The Times. Under the inspirational leadership of Hilary Davan Wetton, the CLC has earned an enviable reputation, both in the national media and with audiences, for its distinctive youthful sound and the quality of its performances. The CLC regularly promotes its own concerts in London’s finest concert halls, with leading professional orchestras, instrumentalists, and soloists, as well as performing each year for a variety of other promoters in major venues. The choir has a broad repertoire, but thanks to Hilary Davan Wetton, it has developed a particularly strong reputation for English music of the twentieth century.

 

The choir is a registered charity whose object is to nurture a love and understanding of music. It is committed to creating opportunities for children and young people both to perform and to attend concerts, notably through its Young Singer Scheme, the Front Row Club, and the Young Apprentice Bass and Tenor Scheme which aims to foster new young choral tenors from London schools with bursaries. Besides concerts and recordings, the choir organises choral workshops and residential weekends which are open to members and non-members alike. 

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Hilary Davan Wetton

Hilary Davan Wetton has been Artistic Director of the City of London Choir since 1989. One of the country’s most distinguished choral conductors, he was founder/conductor of the Holst Singers, is Conductor Emeritus of the Guildford Choral Society, and was recently appointed Artistic Director of the Military Wives Choir. He is also Associate Conductor of the London Mozart Players.

 

Educated at Brasenose College, Oxford and the Royal College of Music, Hilary studied conducting with Sir Adrian Boult. Over a career spanning 50 years, he is particularly admired for his interpretations of 20th century British music, conducting many first performances and neglected works for British composers. His extensive discography includes recordings for Hyperion with both the Holst Singers and GCS, a series of highly-praised recordings for Collins Classics with the LPO, and acclaimed discs for Naxos, EM Records, and Decca with the City of London Choir.

 

Hilary was Jo Brand’s organ teacher for the BBC1 series Play it Again and has broadcast frequently for the BBC and Classic FM, where he was presenter/conductor of Masterclass. He has been awarded honorary degrees by the Open University and De Montfort University and is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

 

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Michael Stimpson

Michael Stimpson has had works performed and recorded by some of the UK’s most distinguished artists including the Philharmonia Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Allegri and Maggini String Quartets, and Bristol Bach Choir. Venues have included the Wigmore Hall, South Bank, and various UK Festivals, with international performances in Europe, the USA, and Australia.

 

Works are varied in their subject matter, the stimulus often from contemporary events, favourite authors, and poets. String Quartet No. 1 (Robben Island) reflected the breakdown of apartheid; Dylan, the life and times of the Welsh poet; and Age of Wonders, a four-stage work to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. This evolved from violin and piano, through string quartet and string orchestra, to complete for full orchestra, commissioned by the Darwin Symphony Orchestra. Michael’s full length opera, Jesse Owens, designed to break down barriers in casting and audience, told the remarkable story of the iconic US athlete who won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

 

Other CDs of Michael’s music include: Journeymen (Allegri Quartet); Dylan & The Drowning of Capel Celyn (Roderick Williams and Sioned Williams); Incidental Music from the opera Jesse Owens (Philharmonia Orchestra); and Age of Wonders (Philharmonia Orchestra).

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