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Two world premieres see Mark-Anthony Turnage return to Birmingham this month, the city where he has enjoyed long composing associations since 1989. Concertino for clarinet and ensemble is premiered by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and his new overture Go For It is a centenary commission from the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

September brings premieres in Birmingham for two new works by Mark-Anthony Turnage originally scheduled for his 60th birthday year but rescheduled due to the pandemic. Since his Composer in Association role with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra between 1989 and 1993, Turnage has regularly returned to the city for new works created for the orchestra and the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.

Concertino for clarinet and ensemble was composed for soloist Jon Carnac and the BCMG, who give the premiere at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham on 12 September under Thomas Kemp as part of a belated 60th birthday programme for Turnage. The composer first met Carnac as a new member of the CBSO playing bass clarinet in the premiere of Three Screaming Popes in 1989 under Simon Rattle, and their friendship led to a sequence of new pieces and performances including Carnac and Falling Apart for clarinet and piano and An Invention on ‘Solitude’ for clarinet and string quartet.

The new 17-minute Concertino is cast in four movements with personal elements for the soloist woven in. The opening Study in Fifths explores the interval through canons and transformations and is followed by a Romanza for Carnac and his partner Annette. The third movement plays with a cryptogram of Carnac’s name transformed into musical pitches with the clarinet demonstrating its leaping agility, and the final Sad Soliloquy was written in memory of the soloist’s parents, joining the list of plangent memorial tributes created by the composer. As well as the premiere of the Concertino, the BCMG’s 60th birthday programme also includes Turnage’s This Silence for mixed octet dating from 1992.

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On 30 September Cristian Macelaru is on the podium for the world premiere of Turnage’s Go For It at Symphony Hall in Birmingham. The new concert-opener was commissioned by the CBSO for its centenary in 2020 with the performance delayed until this season due to the pandemic. The score is marked ‘With brilliance’ and this upbeat mood and energy continue across its seven-minute span right through to the punchy conclusion, providing an ideal overture to a concert.

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This autumn sees first performances of two further orchestral scores. Time Flies was co-commissioned by the NDR Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra linked to the Tokyo Olympiad and BBC Radio 3. The premiere has been flying between Hamburg, Tokyo and London since July 2020 with a sequence of time-shift reschedulings due to COVID lockdowns, but the location and date were finally fixed for Hamburg on 1 September at the opening concert of the Elbphilharmonie season conducted by Alan Gilbert. The 20-minute score, with a movement for each of its three featured cities, travels from Hamburg onto Tokyo and London in future seasons.

Turnage’s twin loves of music and football are fused together in Up for Grabs, premiered at the Barbican in London on 5 November. The work, originally conceived to accompany the Euro tournament, celebrates a historic Arsenal victory over Liverpool in 1989, with Turnage’s score providing an alternative to the iconic Brian Moore commentary which inspired the work’s title: “…it’s up for grabs now…” As a lifelong ‘Gooner’, Turnage captures the intense rollercoaster of the game, with its highs, lows, desperation and elation. The BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ryan Bancroft is joined by jazz soloists John Parricelli on guitar, Peter Erskine on drums and Laurence Cottle on bass guitar. The concert is coupled with a panel discussion featuring Lee Dixon and members of Arsenal’s title winners.

> More on Up for Grabs

>  Further information on Work: Concertino

Photo: Philip Gatward

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