Secret Theatres: The Music of Harrison Birtwistle

Sir Harrison Birtwistle, 
Photographer: Hanya Chlala

Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Photographer: Hanya Chlala

Secret Theatres:  the Music of Harrison Birtwistle
Thursday 6-Saturday 8 November 2014
University of Cambridge
Secret Theatres: the Music of Harrison Birtwistle brings some of the most respected practitioners of contemporary music to Cambridge in celebration of Birtwistle in his 80th year. The Arditti String Quartet, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Oliver Knussen, Anssi Karttunen and Nicolas Hodges appear alongside the University of Cambridge’s New Music Ensemble, Choir of King’s College and The King’s Men for this three day festival conceived by Cambridge University’s first Lecturer in Composition, Richard Causton. Composer Richard Causton is currently working on a new Piano Quintet commissioned by the BBC for the Nash Ensemble and his new work for cello solo, De Profundis (2014), will be given its world première by Anssi Karttunen on the last day of the festival. He brought the University’s first PhD in Composition programme to fruition in 2013 – the year after his appointment – and this year, in addition to curating the 2014 Kettle’s Yard New Music Series, initiated Chapel Lates – a new concert series focusing on contemporary music in King’s College Chapel.

Secret Theatres: the Music of Harrison Birtwistle marks the most significant new music festival ever to be presented in Cambridge. Not onlywill it feature a range of works from across Birtwistle’s career – from Hoquetus David (1969) to Fantasia upon all the notes (2011) – but will also provide entry points for student composers at all levels. On the Sunday before the beginning of the festival, Richard Causton leads a practical composition workshop – Taking a Line for a Walk – for local sixth-formers using the music of Birtwistle as a starting point. During the course of the festival itself, student composers are invited to attend workshops with the Arditti String Quartet, listen to Birtwistle in conversation with Richard Causton, and participate in one-on-one sessions with the composer.

With the works of Birtwistle at its core, Secret Theatres will also include world premières by MPhil student Joy Lisney; doctoral students David Roche, Jae-Moon Lee and Patrick Brennan; and third year undergraduate student Alex Tay. The premières are programmed alongside a UK première by Alexander Goehr, Emeritus Professor at the Faculty of Music and a close associate of Birtwistle since the 1950s, as well as works by faculty members John Hopkins and Richard Causton. Cambridge University was founded in 1209 and awarded what is thought to be the world’s first BMus degree in 1464. Among the early recipients were John Dowland, Orlando Gibbons and Robert Fayrfax, who in 1504 was awarded an unprecedented DMus in composition. As part of the festival, Stephen Cleobury will conduct Fayrfax’s Magnificat Regale at Saturday Evensong in King’s College Chapel, for which it is believed to have been composed.

For further information:

Ginny Macbeth/Moë Faulkner: 020 7251 9448


Thursday 6 November 2014
2-4pm Workshop for student composers with the Arditti String Quartet
Faculty of Music, West Road Concert Hall
Closed Session
5.30pm Robin Orr Lecture: Sir Harrison Birtwistle in conversation with Richard Causton
Faculty of Music, West Road Concert Hall
Admission Free
7.30pm Concert 1: Arditti String Quartet
Beethoven Grosse Fuge, Op. 133
Joy Lisney New work – world première
(MPhil composition student)
Berg String Quartet, Op. 3
Stravinsky Three Pieces for String Quartet
Birtwistle Tree of Strings

Faculty of Music, West Road Concert Hall
Tickets £24, £18, £12, Students £5


Friday 7 November 2014
10am-1pm One-to-one sessions for student composers with Sir Harrison Birtwistle
Faculty of Music, West Road Recital Room
Closed Session
2-5pm DVD screening of Birtwistle’s The Minotaur
Faculty of Music, West Road Recital Room
Admission Free
7.30pm Concert 2: Cambridge University New Music Ensemble & The King’s Men

Machaut Hoquetus David
Birtwistle Hoquetus David
Ockeghem Ut Heremita Solus
Birtwistle Ut Heremita Solus
Dufay Se la face ay pale
Hopkins Se la face ay pale
Alex Tay On Skipton Moor – world première (3rd year music undergraduate)
David Roche Chapters – world première (PhD composition student)
Birtwistle Secret Theatre

Patrick Bailey & Ben Glassberg, conductors
Faculty of Music, West Road Concert Hall
Tickets £18, £12, £6, Students £5
Saturday 8 November 2014
12.30pm-1.30pm Concert 3: Anssi Karttunen, cello and Nicolas Hodges, piano

Birtwistle Bogenstrich (I)
Causton De Profundis – world première
Birtwistle Bogenstrich (II)
Jae-Moon Lee Tangram – world première (PhD composition student)
Birtwistle Bogenstrich (III)
Beethoven Cello Sonata, Op. 102
King’s College Chapel, 12.30-1.30pm
Tickets £18, £12, £6, Students £5
5.30pm Evensong including music by Robert Fayrfax and a motet from Birtwistle’s The Last Supper
King’s College Chapel
Choir of King’s College, Cambridge
Stephen Cleobury, conductor
7.30pm Concert 4: Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Birtwistle Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae
Patrick Brennan New work – world première (PhD composition student)
Birtwistle Fantasia upon all the notes
Goehr …between the Lines [Chamber Symphony] – UK première
Causton Chamber Symphony
Birtwistle Silbury Air
Oliver Knussen, conductor
King’s College Chapel
Tickets £24, £18, £12, Students £5
ADC Box Office
Telephone: 01223 300085


Registered Charity No. 1149534

Cambridge University Musical Society
West Road Concert Hall
11 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP
Principal Guest Conductor
Sir Roger Norrington CBE
Director, Cambridge University Chamber Choir
Martin Ennis
Artistic Advisor
Sian Edwards
Associate Directors, Cambridge University Chamber Choir
David Lowe, Nicholas Mulroy