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Guest of the Month December 2011: Hugh Brunt

Hugh Brunt is Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of the London Contemporary Orchestra. He has conducted at the Aldeburgh Festival (Britten-Pears Composers Ensemble), Spitalfields Music Summer Festival, The Sage Gateshead, Latitude Festival, Southbank Centre and Symphony Hall, Birmingham. Recent engagements include Tom Stoppard/André Previn’sEvery Good Boy Deserves Favour at the National Theatre (Southbank Sinfonia), Ron Arad’s Curtain Call at the Roundhouse and conducting the closing performance of Mike Figgis’sJust Tell The Truth (Deloitte Ignite 2011) at the Royal Opera House.

In Europe, he has performed at the Musikverein, Vienna and assisted at the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg (Thomas Adès’sPowder Her Face). Collaborative projects include Imogen Heap with the Holst Singers, Belle & Sebastian, Biosphere and Foals. His performances have been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and Sky Arts. Future engagements include returning to the Roundhouse with the LCO to perform a new work by Gabriel Prokofiev alongside music by Jonny Greenwood, Vivier and Xenakis.

Here’s what Hugh has been listening to recently…

Jonny Greenwood ‘Norwegian Wood’ (BBC Concert Orchestra/Ziegler)
Jonny Greenwood is a master at creating works for the concert hall that work equally well for the screen. As with his score for There Will Be Blood (for which he was famously denied an Academy Award nomination), Norwegian Wood draws much material from a pre-existing work, in this case Greenwood’s Doghouse, written for the BBC Concert Orchestra in 2010. It is a wonderfully sensitive and powerful score.

Nicholas Ludford ‘Missa Benedicta & antiennes votives’ (The Choir of New College Oxford/Higginbottom)
The music of 16th-century Nicholas Ludford, a contemporary of Taverner and Sheppard, has been discovered only relatively recently. It is incredibly beautiful and, in my view, some of the most dazzlingly inventive, ‘modern’ English choral music of that period. I was lucky to sing on this recording during my final year as a choral scholar (countertenor) at New College.

Claude Vivier ‘Orion; Siddhartha; Cinq chansons pour percussion’ (WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln/Rundel)
I was introduced to Claude Vivier’s music a few years ago by composer Jonathan Cole and was immediately struck by its colour and ‘otherworldliness’. Vivier’s death, at the hands of a young Parisian lover, was eerily predicted in the piece on which he was working at the time, Glaubst du an die Unsterblichkeit der Seele? (‘Do You Believe in the Immortality of the Soul?’). The music on its own, however, is fascinating enough. It’s just a pity there aren’t more opportunities to hear his works in the UK. Psappha and the BBC Singers staged a wonderful event at Lancaster University in 2008, but there’s been little since. LCO is trying to make a good fist of it – we’ve performed Zipangu on a number of occasions and upcoming concerts at the Spitalfields Music Winter Festival and Reverb 2012 feature Pulau Dewata and Orion respectively (the latter included on this disc).

Mara Carlyle ‘Floreat’
LCO were fortunate to collaborate with Mara Carlyle last year at Aldeburgh Music’s ‘Faster Than Sound’ and subsequently Latitude Festival. I’m rather in love with her voice. This, Mara’s second album, was scheduled for 2008 but shelved after EMI was bought. Two years later, IKEA used her song Pianni on one of their adverts (the one with all those cats) helping to secure the release of the aptly titled Floreat (‘Let it flourish’). The album elegantly draws together sharp-witted lyrics and gorgeous orchestrations, wickedly citing Dowland and Vaughan Williams.

Gérard Grisey ‘Vortex Temporum’ (Ensemble Risognanze/Ceccherini)
I’m currently preparing for a performance of this work with the LCO at Spitalfields next week. Quite simply it is extraordinary; one of the defining works of the ‘spectral’ movement. Grisey modestly described the masterpiece as “perhaps only a history of the arpeggio in time and space – from the point of view of our ears”. This recording offers a brutally incisive account from Ensemble Risognanze conducted by Tito Ceccherini.