Monday, 20 October
Genesis Foundation celebrates CD release of
Spirit, Strength and Sorrow
World-Premiere Stabat Maters by Alissa Firsova, Tõnu Kõrvits and Matthew Martin (COR16127)
Date of album release: 3 November 2014
3 November brings the release on The Sixteen’s CORO label of newly-commissioned settings of the Stabat Mater by three young composers: Alissa Firsova, Tõnu Kõrvits and Matthew Martin. The commissions and the recording were made possible with funding from the Genesis Foundation, which works in partnership with prestigious, progressive organisations in theatre, music and the visual arts to nurture the professional careers of outstanding young creative and performing artists.
Harry Christophers and The Sixteen gave the three works their world premiere in June at LSO St Luke’s in London, and their Scottish premiere at the opening concert on 1 October of composer James MacMillan’s new annual music festival, the Cumnock Tryst.
John Studzinski, Founder and Chairman of the Genesis Foundation commented:
“The Stabat Mater is a deeply moving text that has been set by many of the great composers of the past, including Pergolesi, Verdi and Poulenc. These new works by three rising composers make a significant addition to the canon of Stabat Maters written in recent times. The poem may date from the 13th century and describe Mary standing by the Cross at Calvary, but, as we all know all too well, the image of a suffering mother remains as universal and powerful as it has always been. I hope that these new works, performed with The Sixteen’s characteristic commitment and integrity, will provoke thought and stimulate debate.”
This is the third CD on CORO to feature new works commissioned by the Genesis Foundation. The partnership between the Foundation and The Sixteen was launched in 2006, when Will Todd received a commission to write a new choral piece, Among Angels, which was premiered in Salzburg. In 2008, The Sixteen gave three world premieres at Westminster Cathedral: settings by James Macmillan, Roxanna Panufnik and Will Todd of Padre Pio’s Prayer after Communion, Stay with Me Lord. 2011 brought new works by Ruth Byrchmore, Tarik O’Regan and Roderick Williams, based on the words of Spanish mystics St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross.
Harry Christophers, founder and conductor of The Sixteen commented:
“Since 2006, every project in collaboration with the Genesis Foundation has emanated from John Studzinski’s devotion to the Catholic faith and his love of the wonderful poetry which encapsulates Christianity, as well as his laudable mission to promote and nurture young talent. For ’Stabat Mater’, without doubt the most powerful poem of the liturgy and one which has inspired composers through the ages, we took advantage of our long association with James MacMillan. James, John and I chose composers representing totally different backgrounds and cultures, and we were all incredibly moved by the results.”
Tõnu Kõrvits’ distinctive modal style informs his setting, which is founded in a modality specific to a South-Eastern region of his native Estonia. Alissa Firsova’s intricate harmonic language, which derives from examples of Russian Orthodox music, echoes the complexities of the text, while Matthew Martin – whose activities as organist of Brompton Oratory substantially influence his style – harks back to the Stabat Mater settings by Renaissance and Baroque composers which drew on the simple, yet evocative plainsong melody used for the poem. An example is Claudio Casciolini’s mid-18th century version, which is included on the disc: Harry Christophers has carefully juxtaposed the new pieces with works from previous ages, including Domenico Scarlatti’s extraordinarily virtuosic setting for ten voices and continuo, which concludes the programme.
Central to the Genesis Foundation’s partnership with The Sixteen is its funding of Genesis Sixteen, a young artists’ scheme that nurtures outstanding young singers, helping them to bridge the gap between life as a student and as a professional performer. In February, Genesis Sixteen workshopped the compositions with the composers, who were mentored by James Macmillan; this put the Genesis Sixteen at the heart of the inception and development of the Stabat Mater project.
Notes to editors
The Genesis Foundation is a UK-based charitable foundation established by John Studzinski in 2001. Through its partner programmes, the Foundation enables prestigious, progressive organisations in the fields of theatre, music and visual arts to nurture the careers of outstanding young artists, developing their talents and giving them access to influential mentors and valuable networks. The Genesis Foundation runs dedicated programmes with the Royal Court, The Sixteen, Welsh National Opera and the Young Vic, and supports graduate and post-graduate training programmes at LAMDA and the Royal College of Art.
The Sixteen is recognised as one of the world’s greatest ensembles with 35 years of worldwide performing and recording experience. Comprising both choir and period-instrument orchestra, The Sixteen’s total commitment to the music it performs is its greatest distinction. A special reputation for performing early English polyphony, masterpieces of the Renaissance, bringing fresh insights into Baroque and early Classical music and a diversity of 20th and 21st-century music, is drawn from the passions of conductor and founder Harry Christophers CBE. In 2011 the group launched Genesis Sixteen, a new training programme for young singers. Now in its fourth year, it is the UK’s first fully-funded choral programme for young singers designed specifically to bridge the gap from student to professional practitioner.
Alissa Firsova is a young composer, conductor and pianist. After winning the BBC/Guardian/Proms Young Composer Competition in 2001 at the age of 14, Alissa received numerous commissions, recently culminating in a commission for the 2010 Proms festival to write a transcription for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Bach Day, which was conducted by Andrew Litton and broadcast live on BBC 2. Her music has also been performed and toured by Imogen Cooper, Henning Kraggerud, Dante Quartet, Seattle Chamber Players and the Philharmonia Soloists.
Tõnu Kõrvits is a rising star of Estonian contemporary music, with his compositions being widely performed in Estonia and abroad. He graduated from the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre’s composition department with Raimo Kangro in 1994 and master’s programme with Professor Jaan Rääts in 1999. During his studies he also participated in master courses for young arrangers with the Metropole Orchestra and conductor Vince Mendoza (Hilversum, Holland, 1997) and in composer Stephen Montague’s master class (Gdansk, Poland, 1998). Since 2001 he has been a lecturer of composition and instrumentation at the Estonian Academy of Music and Theatre. He has been a member of the Estonian Composers’ Union since 1994.
Matthew Martin studied at Magdalen College, Oxford and the Royal Academy of Music. He is one of the UK’s leading choral composers and is frequently commissioned to write for prominent ensembles, most recently BBC Singers, the choirs of Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral, Chester Cathedral, St John’s College, Cambridge, and Magdalen College, Oxford. Upcoming projects include new works for The Sixteen, the Gabrieli Consort and the American Guild of Organists. His work is now published exclusively by Faber Music.
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