Brett Dean’s evolution cantata created in Birmingham
The world premiere of Brett Dean’s new evolution cantata, In this brief moment, is performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra on 24 September. The new work travels internationally in future years to Hamburg, Lyon, Sydney and Madrid.
The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra unveils Brett Dean’s new cantata, In this brief moment, on 24 September at Symphony Hall in Birmingham. Nicholas Collon is on the rostrum with the CBSO joined by the choral forces of the City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus and the Hallé Choir together with soloists soprano Jennifer France and counter tenor Patrick Terry. Subtitled as An Evolution Cantata, the 50-minute work is described by the composer as being “inscribed in a long history of cantatas hovering between the sacred and the profane, engaging with questions of being and becoming, origins and destinations”.
In this brief moment was commissioned by Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (as one of its CBSO Centenary Commissions), Orchestre National de Lyon, Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de España and NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra. After its first performance in Birmingham, the German premiere in Hamburg follows on 2 February with the UK choirs from the premiere joining the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra under Alan Gilbert. The French and Australian premieres, postponed due to the Covid pandemic, are planned for 2024 by the Orchestre National de Lyon and the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs alongside the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, with a Madrid performance by the Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de España following.
Brett Dean and frequent collaborator Matthew Jocelyn, who assembled and himself contributed to the texts, describe the genesis of the work: “The Origins of Species by Charles Darwin served as our starting point, and remains at the core of In this brief moment, an alternative perspective to the biblical concept of creation as celebrated in Haydn’s Die Schöpfung, for example, also referenced in this work. But Bernie Krause’s The Great Animal Orchestra also helped us to shape an evolutionary sound chart, from ‘geophony’ to ‘biophony’ to ‘androphony’, a categorization we loosely adopted as our own three-part structure.
“In three movements, with the expressive resources of a symphonic orchestra, two choruses and two soloists (a lyric soprano and a counter-tenor) In this brief moment boldly glides through 4.5 billion years of history, from the formation of planet Earth, through the emergence of the first mono-cellular beings, the intermittent pullulation of life and life-forms, the sporadic periods of extinction that have criss-crossed the past 4 billion years, to the emergence of Homo Sapiens and this brief moment in the history of the world when human life seems to have developed agency over its own future and perhaps even over that of the planet itself.”
> Read the full programme note
Following the world premiere concert at Symphony Hall, the composer joins members of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group for a late evening performance of his trio Night Window, scored for clarinet, viola and piano.
Other Brett Dean highlights this season include a residency with the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra between 12 and 21 October and the premieres of commissioned works for the Bavarian State Orchestra in Munich under Vladimir Jurowski on 9 January and the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Edward Gardner on 26 April, as part of Dean’s ongoing residency. Dean’s acclaimed opera Hamlet was recently performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and receives its second German staging at the Bavarian State Opera next June.
> Further information on Work: In This Brief Moment
Photo: Bettina Stoess