Standing ovation for Thomas Simaku in the Netherlands

Two new works by Professor of Composition Thomas Simaku received their world premieres at the 40th edition of the Moderne Muziek Nijmegen Festival.

The programme, which took place in the Netherlands on Sunday 24 November 2019, also included a string quartet byRebecca Saunders   featuring Joseph Housto, British pianist now living in Berlin, and the Paris–based Quatuor Diotima.

Written for the York alumnus Joseph Houston, Catena for solo piano is a substantial work consisting of five movements. As the Latin title itself suggests, Catena is a chain of musical events linked by a network of relationships at various levels, musical and otherwise. Highly contrapuntal in texture, it explores in detail the expressive and virtuosic potentiality of the piano, covering a wide spectrum of colours and textures. Each movement follows its own path and textural format, beginning with the ostentatiously static quality of the first and culminating with the total disintegration of the ‘chains’ in the final movement. 

The second premiere was ‘con–ri–sonanza’ for piano and string quartet dedicated to the memory of Bill Colleran. In his programme note, Professor Simaku writes: “A grand seigneur in the music-publishing world, Bill was an extraordinary man with a strong character, and so generously helpful to others. The friendship and encouragement I received from him, even in his last few days, meant so much to me! Four notes derived from his name are at the heart of the music here. Like pillars in a sonic edifice, these four notes resonate throughout the piece, hence the title.”

Professor Simaku gave a talk introducing his two new works; the programme received standing ovation by the Dutch audience. Both works will be recorded at the University of York in December for a CD to be released in the Autumn of 2020 by the Swedish label BIS.

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