Celebrated composer and film-maker Michael Nyman premieres his latest work in Felixstowe tomorrow. Entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE talks to him about the unusual way it came about.
On November 20, The Smith Quartet will perform the premiere of String Quartet No 5 by Michael Nyman as part of the Festival Automne en Normandie in Bernay, Église abbatiale Notre-Dame. The string quartet, commissioned by the festival, forms part of a concert including Nyman’s String Quartet No 2 and String Quartet No 3 alongside Louis Andriessen Miserere.
Andy Findon’s new release Density 21.5, a collection of unaccompanied works for flute (and other instruments) by contemporary British composers, features five Michael Nyman compositions. One of them, an early work called “Canzona”, has never been recorded for release before.
Full details here. The album is currently only available for digital download.
First performed in Spain in 2000 then extensively revised for a second “premiere” in Karlsruhe in 2002, Facing Goya still ranks as Nyman’s most ambitious operatic work to date. Divided into four acts, lasting well over two hours, featuring five singers and scored for a large ensemble (effectively an expanded version of the Michael Nyman Band), it comes close to “grand” opera in design, which perhaps explains why the work has been overshadowed by the composer’s more approachable chamber operas.
It’s an irony not lost on Michael Nyman. His score to a film that helped define the communist USSR will ring out in front of Moscow’s new capitalist elite. “I’m sure that contemporary Russians will find this film quaint and totally incomprehensible,” he half-jokes.
Variously translated from Russian as One Sixth of the World, or sometimes A Sixth Part of the World, the film in question is a barnstorming state-of-the-nation documentary intended to gel the far-flung peoples of the young nation together into one tight revolutionary pack. This September the composer will be performing his soundtrack to the film inside Russia for the first time at the Barvikha Concert Hall in Moscow.
A Sixth Part of the World was made in 1926 by director David Kaufmann – who worked under the pseudonym Dziga Vertov – and depicts everything from steel mills to folk dance.
“I first worked on Vertov with my score for Man With a Movie Camera,” explains Nyman. “Then I scored his film The Eleventh Year. The Austrian Film Foundation told me they intended to release a DVD with both The Eleventh Year and A Sixth Part of the World. I pointed out that it would seem odd to have one film with a soundtrack and the other without. So I composed the soundtrack for A Sixth Part of the World.”
Meanwhile, Nyman reveals that he has yet another Russian epic in his sights. He is working on “a new score for Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin,” he says.
-By Chris Beanland, The Independent