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2018/09/03

Work of the Week – Richard Ayres: No. 50 (The Garden)

On 5 September, Richard Ayres’ new work No. 50 (The Garden) for bass voice and ensemble will receive its world premiere at the opening concert of the Gaudeamus Muziekweek in Utrecht.  Performed by Asko|Schönberg Ensemble, bass Joshua Bloom and conductor Bass Wiegers, the work will be presented with newly commissioned animations by video artist Martha Colburn.

The Garden was commissioned by Asko|Schönberg and London Sinfonietta with initial development funded by The Royal Opera. Inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, Ayres also drew on texts by Edgar Allan Poe, Christina Rossetti, William Shakespeare and Giacomo Leopardi to create a theatrical concert work in a similar vein to his highly popular earlier work No. 42 (In the Alps).

Richard Ayres – No. 50 (The Garden): in search of meaning

 The Garden is a darkly comic, cyclical tale about a discontented man in search of meaning. He digs from his garden down towards the centre of the earth to find the underworld, then all the way back up again to heaven, only to find himself back in his garden once more. Sampled electronics feature heavily throughout the piece, in keeping with Ayres’ current fascination with electronic sounds as heard in recent works such as No. 48 (night studio) (2015) and No. 51 (resting songs) (2017).

“The bass will sing the voices of all the characters during the performance, as though singing to himself. This confuses the certainty of reality, and creates the impression of listening to the central character’s thoughts. Are we as an audience watching reality, or observing a dream and fantasy world? Is the man in fact awake, asleep, or even dead? This I want to keep ambiguous.” – Richard Ayres

Asko|Schönberg give further performances of The Garden on 13 September at Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ and on 10 November in Den Bosch.  London Sinfonietta will give the UK premiere in April 2019. A second new work by Ayres, No.49 for brass quintet and soundtrack, will also receive its world premiere later in the 2018/19 season.