Schoenberg in Hollywood

Milton Court Concert Hall

Schoenberg in Hollywood (world premiere performance)

A Reflective Conservatoire Conference-commissioned work that draws on Schoenberg’s life, music, musical acquaintances and influences, by composer, pianist and professor of composition at the Guildhall School Matthew King and librettist Alasdair Middleton.  Performed by the composer with Guildhall School students and soprano Jane Manning.

Post-performance roundtable

with Matthew King, Alasdair Middleton and Jane Manning, chaired by Armin Zanner, Head of Vocal Studies at the Guildhall School.

Schoenberg in Hollywood is a dramatic cantata that Alasdair Middleton and Matthew King have been discussing for quite a long time, but the piece has ended up being written amazingly quickly, especially for today’s performance!

The work concerns itself with the extraordinary clash of ideologies that occurred in Los Angeles between 1930 and 1951 as European intellectuals, fleeing to the United States, found themselves confronted by the multi-faceted populism of American culture. Arnold Schoenberg lived in Hollywood from 1934 until his death in 1951, and was on friendly terms with Chaplin, the Korngolds, Max Waxman, Bernard Hermann, Max Steiner and many other prominent figures of the period. Many of these appear fleetingly in our piece. Schoenberg was also George Gershwin’s friend and tennis partner, and a regular guest at his house.

The other important topic in Schoenberg in Hollywood is Schoenberg’s preoccupation with numerology, his fear of the number thirteen, and the singular circumstances surrounding his death on Friday, 13 July 1951, a date he had been dreading because of the concurrence of several numbers which he believed to be inauspicious.

Various voices are heard in the piece, including Schoenberg’s own (sung by Gethin Lewis), Frau Schoenberg (sung by Bianca Andrew) and Frau Dieterle (Schoenberg’s friend and astrological mentor). We are very pleased that Jane Manning will be performing this Sprechstimme role, which was composed specially for her.

matthew kingMatthew King is a composer, pianist and professor of composition at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. He has collaborated several times with Alasdair Middleton: on the operas, The World was all Before Them, On London Fields (winner of a 2004 Royal Philharmonic Award), the cantata Antarctica and the musical, I’ll be Seeing You. Matthew also has a long association with Jane Manning. He was a founder member of Jane’s Minstrels and composed the chamber opera The Snow Queen in 1991, with Jane in the title role. His compositions include Totentango, written for the LSO; string quartets, jazz pieces, a pan-pipe trio and a piece for nine piccolos called Una Piccola Sinfonia. Critics have described his work as “music of distinctive beauty with disarming theatre sense” (Independent on Sunday), “exhilarating” (The Sunday Times) and “teeming with ideas…with a Reich-like jauntiness of rhythm and texture” (The Times). His music has been commissioned and performed by many leading performers.  Many of Matthew’s pieces are site-specific:  his Una Piccola Sinfonia (a commission from the Guildhall flute department) was written for an ensemble of nine piccolos; the giant King’s Wood Symphony – written in collaboration with Nye Parry (professor of electronic music at Guildhall) – for 24 horns, percussion, electronics and 16 gramophones, was originally composed for an ensemble dispersed around a forest in Kent in 2007. By contrast, his Sonatas for solo piano, is only one minute long, and quotes from all 32 of Beethoven’s sonatas in chronological order.

alasdair middletonAlasdair Middleton was born in Yorkshire and trained at the Drama Centre, London. His work as a librettist includes: with Jonathan Dove – The Monster in the Maze (Berliner Philharmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra, Aix-en-Provence Festival), Diana and Actaeon (Royal Ballet), The Walk From The Garden (Aegeas Salisbury International Arts Festival), Life Is A Dream (Birmingham Opera), Mansfield Park (Heritage Opera), Swanhunter (Opera North),  The Enchanted Pig (The Young Vic, ROH2), The Adventures of Pinocchio (Opera North), and the cantata On Spital Fields (Spitalfields Festival, winner of a Royal Philharmonic Society Award; With Paul Englishby – Pleasure’s Progress (ROH2), Who Is This That Comes (Opera North) and The Crane Maiden (KAAT Yokohama). Other libretti include The World Was All Before Them, On London Fields, winner of an Royal Philharmonic Society Award,  A Bird In Your Ear (New York City Opera),  The North Wind Was A Woman (A Song Cycle for Dawn Upshaw), Everything Money Can Buy (Selfridges)  The Feathered Friend. He has written four plays; Aeschylean Nasty, Shame On You Charlotte, Casta Diva and Einmal.

jane manningJane Manning was born in Norwich and studied at the Royal Academy of Music and in Switzerland with Frederick Husler.   She has given more than 400 world premieres, working with such composers as Birtwistle, Boulez, Cage, Carter, Maxwell Davies, Knussen, Lutyens and Weir. Her discography includes the major song cycles of Messiaen, all Satie’s vocal music, and works by Berg, Dallapiccola, Schoenberg and Ligeti with conductors including Boulez and Rattle.  She has been Visiting Professor at Mills College, Oakland, and at Keele and Kingston Universities, and has given classes at many of the world’s leading campuses including Harvard, Princeton, Cornell, Stanford, Yale and Columbia.

She is currently writing a third book for Oxford University Press, Vocal Repertoire for the 21st Century.

Voicing Pierrot, her study of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, was shortlisted for a Royal Philharmonic Society Award. She has also contributed chapters to Cambridge University Press’s ‘History of Musical Performance’ and Faber & Faber’s ‘A Messiaen Companion’.

She was awarded the OBE in 1990, holds Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Durham, Keele, Kingston and York, and is a Fellow of both the Royal Academy and Royal College of Music.


Matthew King, piano,  director

Jane Manning, sprechstimme Frau Dieterle

Student performers:

Julia Sitkovetky, soprano 1 Genevieve Colletta,  soprano 2 Bianca Andrew, mezzo soprano 1 (Frau Schoenberg) Freya Jacklin, mezzo soprano 2 Gethin Lewis, tenor 1 (Arnold Schoenberg) James Robinson, tenor 2 Jonathan Hyde, baritone 1 Jake Muffett, baritone 2
Amarins Wierdsma, violin Fraser Keddie, viola Andrew Power, cello Antonia Berg, flute Myles Wakelin-Harkett, clarinet Tom Harrison, trumpet Ian Sankey, trombone Lewis Blee,  percussion

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