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Home > Elena Firsova: Women Make Music

Elena Firsova: Women Make Music

Elena Firsova was born in Leningrad on 21 March 1950 into a family of physicists. She made her first attempts at composition at the age of twelve, and formal studies began in 1966 at music college in Moscow and continued from 1970 to 1975 at the Moscow Conservatoire where her teachers were Alexander Pirumov (composition) and Yury Kholopov (analysis).

In 1975 she established contact of a crucial importance with Edison Denisov, one of the leading figures of Soviet contemporary music. Her music was first featured outside the Soviet Union in 1979, in Cologne (Sonata for solo clarinet and Petrarca’s Sonnets), Paris and Venice (Petrarca’s Sonnets). The following year Petrarca’s Sonnets was performed in London by Jane Manning and the London Sinfonietta conducted by Peter Eötvös.

Earthly Life, one of many works by Firsova setting the verse of Osip Mandelstam, was commissioned by the BBC and premiered in London in November 1986 by Penelope Walmsley-Clarke and the Nash Ensemble conducted by Lionel Friend. The work established Firsova’s reputation in the UK and has led to two further Mandelstam cantatas written for the Nash Ensemble: Forest Walks (1987) and Before the Thunderstorm (1994).

Firsova’s music has been included in Soviet seasons at the Bath Festival in 1987, the Almeida Festival in 1989, the South Bank Centre’s Russian Spring Festival in 1991, and the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Music of Today series in 2001. Recent orchestral works include Augury commissioned by the BBC Proms for the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Andrew Davis, and Cassandra written for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and recorded on BIS Records. Recent chamber works have included the latest in her series of ten string quartets written for the Britten, Danish, Smith and Brodsky Quartets.

Elena Firsova will be writing the first work to be commissioned by the Marsyas Trio, one of the leading ensembles for flute, cello and piano.  As much of Elena’s music draws on literature and poetry, this work of approximately 12 minutes in length is inspired by the opening lines from the poem L’Horloge (the clock) from Baudelaire’s ‘Les fleurs du mal’.  This work will be premiered at The Forge on April 25th 2012 alongside other chamber music works by Elena, including the UK premiere of ‘Tender is the Sorrow’.  This concert is in celebration of Elena Firsova’s twenty-year contribution to new music in the UK.  Further performances in 2012 will take place at The Centre for Russian Music, St Martin-in-the-Fields and Concerts in the West, as well as several venues in London throughout the summer and small communities in South-East China in December.

More performances:

26 April: (M)other Russia Festival, the Chancellors’s Hall, Senate House
8 May: Southwark Cathedral
4 June: All Saints’ Church Kingston
10 June: All Saints’ Church Orpington
28 August: New Music Series, St Martin-in-the-Fields
4 October: Concerts in the West, The Marine Theatre, Dorset
5 October: Concerts in the West, Ilminster Arts Centre, Somerset
6 October: Concerts in the West, Salar Gallery, Devon

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