Tag Archives: composer

Month in pictures – September and October

We’ve had two very busy months at CLS. Our RE:Imagine concert series got off to a flying start in September with CLoSer: Debussy, Copland and Dance at Village Underground, and continued at Southwark Cathedral with an atmospheric celebration of the music of one of the most romantic cities in the world, in Venice: Darkness to Light. But that’s not all we’ve been up to so far this autumn. Take a look at some of our highlights of the last two months…

CLoSer: Debussy, Copland and Dance saw us return to the intimate setting of Village Underground with a programme exploring music written for dance from Rameau’s 18th century take on the classical Pygmalion myth to Copland’s evocative Appalachian Spring. The concert opened and closed with two brand new dance interpretations of Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune by choreographer Tony Adigun, one contemporary classical, one urban. Photographer James Berry was on hand to capture the concert as it happened. Take a look at some of his stunning pictures…

Whether you missed the concert, or would just like to relive the evening, you can still watch short highlights on our website.

Our second RE:Imagine concert took us to the magnificent Southwark Cathedral to celebrate one of the world’s most wonderful cities, with Venice: Darkness to Light. Soprano Elin Manahan Thomas and countertenor Alex Potter joined us for JS Bach’s re-imagining of Pergolesi’s Stabat MaterTilge, Höchster, meine Sünden, and Latvian composer Ugis Praulins continued our theme of re-imagining the works of Bach, with his arrangement of movements from the Mass in B minor. Here are some lovely photos of rehearsals by James Berry.

On top of all that, it’s been very busy in the education department, as we returned to Suffolk and Essex for our annual Lullaby Concert tour and workshops with Orchestras Live. We also brought a Very Special Bear’s first concert to Warwick, Basingstoke and Saffron Walden with the help of the excellent Simon Callow, who was an absolute natural at conducting! Take a look behind the scenes to see us wrestling with balloons, and a lovely Paddington Bear card made by one of our younger audience members in Basingstoke!

Our RE:Imagine series continues in the new year with The Viennese Salon in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare’s Globe, and our next Crash Bang Wallop! family concert will take place on 12 December. We hope to see you there!

Crash Bang Wallop! Let it Snow
Saturday 12 December 2015, 11.00am
Cadogan Hall, 5 Sloane Terrace, London
Tickets: £8 Children, £10 Adults, £30 Family (four tickets)
Box Office: 020 7730 4500 / cadoganhall.com

The Viennese Salon
Sunday 24 January 2016, 2.00pm
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe, London
Tickets: £62 (premium), £15 – 48, £10 (standing)
Box Office: 020 7401 9919 / shakespearesglobe.com



Bach RE:Imagined is a thread which ties together our new season of concerts. We’re incredibly proud to continue the tradition of re-imagining great works and we have commissioned seven wonderful composers to re-arrange the works of JS Bach. At our CLoSer concert on 22 September we heard our wonderful principal conductor, Michael Collins’ clarinet transcription of Bach’s Cello Suite in D Minor. On 14 October, we present Ugis Praulins’ Bach re-imagining at Southwark Cathedral during Venice: Darkness to Light, and so we’ve put together a little guide to this marvellous Latvian composer…

Ugis Praulins

We’ve put together a short playlist of Praulins’ work to give you an idea of his unique sound:


Join us for an exciting concert of the music of Venice. We bring the atmosphere of this breathtaking city to the banks of the Thames, with music by Vivaldi, Liszt, Stravinsky and more, including a performance of Pergolesi’s dark and mournful Stabat Mater with Elin Manahan Thomas.

We hope to see you soon!

Venice: Darkness to Light
Wednesday 14 October 2015, 7.30pm
Southwark Cathedral, London
Tickets £25, £15, £5* (*restricted view)
£5 tickets available for students and 16-25s (pre-register at www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) Box Office / 020 7377 1362

Piazzolla: The Man and His Music – The Journey towards Tango Nuevo

Last week, we began looking at Astor Piazzolla’s life and history in relation to his émigré background in America. In this Part Two of the series, we track his climb to fame after moving back to Argentina back in 1939 and the creation of his beloved and ever-popular Tango Nuevo

The move to Argentina

In 1937, Astor Piazzolla and his family return to Mar de Plata where tango is very much prominent on the cultural scene. Although Piazzolla finds it difficult to let go of the American jazz that dominated his life over in America, he immerses himself in Argentinean tango and forms a quartet for a while before moving to Buenos Aires to try and get a position in one of the orchestras over there.

Piazzolla lands his dream job

When in Buenos Aires, Piazzolla lands a job as part of the Anibal Troilo orchestra as their bandoneón player, later becoming their arranger. The band was extremely popular in Argentina and his position was a very prestigious one! For Piazzolla, his time as part of the Troilo orchestra was an important one:

‘I learned the tricks of the tangeros, those intuitive tricks that helped me later on. I couldn’t define them technically; they are forms of playing, forms of feeling; it’s something that comes from the inside, spontaneously.’ 

Piazzolla with the Troila Orchestra c.1945 http://www.piazzolla.org/biography/biography-english.html

During this time and shortly after, Piazzolla decides to dedicate his time to composition, studying Bartok, Stravinsky and jazz. During the next few years his music has an odd, yet fantastic fusion of tango and classical.


Nadia Boulanger and the return to Classical Music

Constantly adding fugues, counterpoints and eccentric harmonies into his compositions, 5 years later Piazzolla realised that his music was on a different key and decided to focus on Classical music. Following this idea and after winning a scholarship, he moved to Paris to study music with French composer Nadia Boulanger. When Astor begins to learn with Nadia, he is really embarrassed about his non-classical tango past so he initially hides it from her!

Boulanger and Piazzolla c.1955 http://www.piazzolla.org/biography/biography-english.html

The Birth of Nuevo Tango

In 1955, Astor Piazzola returned to Argentina with his family. That year, he formed his orchestra Octeto Buenos Aires. Although the new band did not last for too long, it was very important for the development of Tango Nuevo, challenging the idea of the traditional tango quintet with two bandoneons, two violins, a bass, a cello, a piano and an electric guitar.  This unusual combination of instruments marked the beginning of Tango Nuevo. Fusing together the worlds of classical music, jazz and tango,

Octeto Buenos Aires
Octeto Buenos Aires http://www.verytangostore.com/legends/astor-piazzolla.html


Piazzolla’s revolution towards traditional tango sparked some very fierce criticism from many, but he continued to develop the genre with new rhythms, sound efffects, string counterpoint, excellent soloists and an  improvisational electric guitar nonetheless.

 An international star

1958 sees Piazzolla move to America, where his experimentation with Tango Nuevo continues in the form of infusing jazz. Eventually gaining world-wide acclaim across Europe, Japan and America, this new style of tango made Piazzolla a real superstar! This was just the beginning of a very successful, prolific and innovative music career.

Piazzolla c.1995 http://www.piazzolla.org/biography/pics/astorbando.html

In 1960, Piazzolla returned to Buenos Aires where his career continued to thrive for several years. He played in magnificent venues, orchestras, and recorded a range of discs. Continuing to compose for the next 10 years and now at the pinnacle of his career, he moves frequently between New York and Buenos Aires , performing in prestigious places such as New York’s Carnegie Hall. In 1985 is named an exceptional citizen of Buenos Aires and sadly dies in 1990, leaving behind more than 1000 works.


Join us on Wednesday 25 February as we perform a range of tango music from Piazzolla, Golijov and Bartok with live dancers and a FREE tango taster from 6.45pm. 

CLOSER: To and From Buenos Aires 
Wednesday 25 February 2015, 7:30pm
FREE tango taster from 6:45pm 
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets £15 or £5 for students (pre-register at www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) available from Spitalfields Music Box Office or via phone on 020 7377 1362.

Composer Journeys – To and From Buenos Aires

Emigration has been a constant theme for musicians throughout history, with composers moving between countries and continents for a wide variety of reasons. In our upcoming concert series, EMIGRE, we explore the journeys these composers have made through their musical output, whose atmospheres and sounds often reflect and have become associated with their life travels.

For our first concert, To and From Buenos Aires on 25 February 2015, we focus on Argentinean tango. Since this art form’s conception in the bars and slums of Buenos Aires, the city has attracted composers from near and far for its particular cultural scene, as well as inspiring resident composers to share the wonder of the city with the rest of the globe. In this concert we explore three composers’ (familial) journeys to and from Buenos Aires and their individual takes on Tango’s sultry, melancholic rhythms and dance.

As part of our blog series, Composer Journeys, we’ve mapped out the journeys the émigré composers featured in this concert have made, including Piazzolla who left Buenos Aires in the 1950s to take tango music to New York and Paris, along with Golijov, whose family first escaped anti-semitic persecution in Romania to find a new life in Buenos Aires, before he moved to Israel and America later in life.


CLOSER: To and From Buenos Aires 
Wednesday 25 February 2015, 7:30pm
FREE tango taster from 6:45pm 
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Tickets £15 or £5 for students (pre-register at www.cls.co.uk/cls-fiver) available from Spitalfields Music Box Office or via phone on 020 7377 1362.

Composer Profile: Valgeir Sigurðsson

Known as the founder of Bedroom Community recording label and for his eclectic, boundless approach to composition, Valgeir Sigurðsson has worked prolifically as a producer, composer, musician, engineer / electronic programmer and mixer. Whilst developing his own particular brand of artistry and ear for sonic experimentation, he has an extensive collaborative history with international artists, including Björk, Brian Eno and Nico Muhly. In advance of the world premiere of his brand new work, No Nights Dark Enough on Tuesday 17 June with the composer himself on electronics, conductor Hugh Brunt and the City of London Sinfonia, we thought we’d take a deeper look into this extraordinary musician, starting from the very year in which he was born!

Valgeir Sigurdsson infographic

No Nights Dark Enough
Tuesday 17 June, 8.00pm – 10.00pm
Village Underground, Shoreditch
Part of the Spitalfields Music Summer Festival 
Tickets: £15 unreserved

Tickets still available. BOOK NOW!


Information on Valgeir Sigurðsson taken from Faber Music.


Spotlight on…Darius Milhaud

Our final CLoSer concert on Wednesday 25 April has a distinct jazz flavour to it and includes a performance of Darius Milhaud‘s jazz inspired La creation de monde. But who was this most prolific of twentieth century composers? Here’s a quick snapshot:

Darius Milhaud

120 (if still alive today)


Born in France and spent time living abroad in Brazil during the First World War. When the Nazis occupied France early in World War II, Milhaud, a prominent Jew, was forced to flee to the US. He had developed severe rheumatoid arthritis, which often confined him to a wheel chair, which compounded the need to escape the Nazi regime. 


Known as..
A “member” of Les Six – an informal group of six composers working in Montparnasse, whose music came to be seen as a rejection of prewar impressionism, and particularly the musical style of Richard Wagner and the impressionist music of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.

Wrote music for nearly every genre imaginable.  His major works span several ballets and operas, to more commercial film and theatre scores. He also composed twelve symphonies and eighteen string quartets.

CLoSer performance
La création du monde
The Creation of the World uses ideas and idioms from jazz, and was originally cast as a ballet in six continuous dance scenes. It tells the story of creation through African folk mythology. The piece is highly influenced by the then newly arrived American jazz scene.

Listen to La création du monde on our Spotify playlist.

CLoSer: Jazz Finale
Weds 25 April, 7.30pm
Village Underground, Shoreditch

Tkts: 020 7377 1362/spitalfieldsmusic.org.uk


Composer Focus: John Adams & Shaker Loops

Find out about the music behind the concert, with our quick guide to John Adams’ Shaker Loops, to be performed at our first CLoSer concert on Tuesday 22 November. 

Shaker Loops
Written in 1978 by American composer John Adams, hailed as one of the great composers of minimalist music, Shaker Loops is one of his most popular and performed compositions.

Formed of four movements:

I. Shaking and Trembling
II. Hymning Slews
III. Loops and Verses
IV. A Final Shaking

Adams says of the piece “the four sections, although they meld together evenly, are really quite distinct, each being characterized by a particular style of string playing. The outside movements are devoted to ’shaking,’ the fast, tightly rhythmicised motion of the bow across the strings.


image: Margaretta Mitchell

Part II is deliberately slower and languid followed by the melodic third movement, with “the celli playing long, lyrical lines (which are nevertheless loops themselves) against a background of muted violins, an activity which gradually takes speed and mass until it culminates in the wild push-pull section that is the emotional high of the piece.” 

The piece takes its name from both the distinctive ‘shaking’ of the strings as they oscillate between notes, and the image Adams’ had of ‘Shakers’ (members of the Millennial Church), dancing and worshipping to repetitive, energetic music.

John Adams occupies a unique position in American music, with his works renowned for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes. His operatic works include Doctor Atomic and The Death of Klinghoffer and his composition On the Transmigration of Souls written for the New York Philharmonic to mark the first anniversary of the World Trade Centre attack, won three Grammys and the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2003.

He has said of London audiences “they are my ideal listeners – sophisticated, musically literate, enthusiastic and of course a little bit insane!”

Listen to our Spotify playlist for a preview of Shaker Loops.

Tuesday 22 November, 7.30pm
Village Underground, EC2A

Tickets: £15 (includes a free drink)
Box office: 020 7377 1362/spitalfieldsmusic.org.uk