Testament, Mark-Anthony Turnage's powerful new setting of Ukrainian poetry, received first performances in the UK and Germany with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the Weimar Staatskapelle conducted by Kirill Karabits.
Mark-Anthony Turnage’s new work for soprano and orchestra, Testament, was premiered by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in November under the baton of Kirill Karabits, who then presented the German premiere the following month with the Weimar Staatskapelle. Soprano soloists were Natalya Romaniw in Poole and Olga Pasichnyk in Weimar.
The Ukrainian conductor suggested a work relating to his homeland, soon after the siege of Prokofiev International Airport in Donetsk, and the composer built his text from poetry by Serhiy Zhadan, Vasyl Stus and Taras Shevchenko, whose Testament prompted the work’s title.
“…a prolonged cry of defiance against the oppression suffered by Ukraine at Russian hands down the centuries… It takes the form of settings of four poems, the earliest of which was written in Tsarist times, when the language was banned. Another was written by a poet who died in a Soviet labour camp; the latest is about the conflict in the Donetsk region… The note of protest and lament resounds through all of them.”
“…this 25-minute work explores themes of war and displacement via text by three Ukraine-born poets who span the imperial, Soviet and modern eras… Turnage’s choices are strong and urgent. So is his music, at times stark and explosive, as at the start of ‘Weep, sky, weep’, yet lyrical too, with evocative, sombre low woodwind, piano, celesta, harp and bells… a thrilling Turnage premiere.”
“He’s woven Ukrainian folk songs into the score: pairs of woodwinds lament in close harmony and a solo flute trails birdsong across the eloquent vocal lines, sung with understated expression and wine-dark tone by Natalya Romaniw. The final song deals harrowingly with recent events, and tastes all the more bitter for being so lucid, and so obviously without any musical agenda other than compassion.”
Turnage highlights over the coming months include the UK premiere of his tribute to Richard Rodney Bennett, Symphonic Movements, by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra with Carlos Kalmar and the US premiere of Martland Memorial by Colin Currie and the Minnesota Orchestra under Osmo Vänskä. First performances of new works for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and for the Piatti Quartet take place in New York and Brussels.
> Further information on Work: Testament
Photo: Philip Gatward
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