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World premiere for Thomas Simaku at HCMF 2015

Posted on 30 September 2015

Thomas Simaku’s String Quartet No 5 will receive its world premiere at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival on 28 November 2015. Dedicated to Terry Holmes, the piece is commissioned by HCMF especially for Quatuor Diotima, with whom Simaku has collaborated for a number of years now.

Thomas Simaku’s has music been reaching audiences across Europe, the USA and further afield for more than two decades, and it has been awarded a host of accolades for its expressive qualities and its unique blend of intensity and modernism. Among a number of prestigious awards, Simaku received a British Composer Award in 2009 for his Soliloquy V – Flauto Acerbo, which the judging panel described as ‘visionary and entirely original’. In 2013 he won the first prize of the International Competition for Lutosławski’s 100th Birthday withConcerto for Orchestra, chosen from 160 compositions submitted anonymously from 37 countries.

In his programme note for the String Quartet No 5, Simaku writes:

‘Although this is a one-movement work lasting some 15 minutes, it is clearly articulated into two parts played without a break. A single gesture, which the music begins with, is constantly passed on from one instrument to another, providing an essential textural impetus for the first part; whereas the second part is composed of two duos (violin & cello and violin & viola respectively), which incessantly interact with and against each other. Whilst the instrumental partnerships here are well identified, various alliances are also formed within the four ‘sectors’ of the quartet.

A few years ago I spent some time in Berlin on a DAAD residency. The city made a profound impression on me: the remnants of the wall in Bernauer Straße and the cobbled two-stone line tracing the wall across where it once stood — a clear reminder of what were, not so long ago, two different worlds in one city — provoked a strikingly dramatic effect. Border, death-strip, killing, and escape to freedom had a particularly evocative resonance, especially of the time when I lived for three years in a remote town in Southern Albania right at the border with Greece. There, there was a nameless road whose destination the authorities did not want you to know, but the locals called it the death-road.

A network of relationships, not least in terms of textural intensity, is established between and within the two parts. The isomorphic aspect of the formal structure, coupled with a more abstract interpretation on an extra-musical level give the piece its identity; although in no way programmatic, it is not incongruous to the Orwellian formula of 2 + 2 = 5.’ (©TS)

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