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2016/08/22

Work of the Week – Thomas Larcher: Symphony No. 2

On 28 August, Thomas Larcher’s Symphony No. 2 ‘Kenotaph’ will receive its UK premiere at the BBC Proms in London, played by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Semyon Bychkov. Bychkov, to whom the symphony is dedicated, conducted the world premiere with the Vienna Philharmonic earlier this year on 3 June in Vienna.

While his earlier compositions primarily extended from his wealth of experience as a chamber musician, Larcher has progressively ventured into larger orchestral writing, beginning with Red and Green (2010). This later became the creative groundwork to his first symphony Alle Tage for baritone and orchestra (2015) following the success of A Padmore Cycle (2014) for tenor and orchestra.

Thomas Larcher’s Symphony No. 2 – “a grave for lost and forgotten souls”

Symphony No. 2 is a 35-minute long, four-movement symphony that still maintains in passages the more intimate sounds of how it was originally envisioned – as a concerto for orchestra. Written for a large orchestra with prominent percussion, Larcher’s composition traverses diverse levels of musical energy, seeking ways to find tonality and structure that is at once exploratory yet aware of classical tradition and form. The symphony’s subtitle ‘Kenotaph’ (cenotaph) refers to monuments erected to commemorate those killed in war, or in the composer’s own words, “graves for lost and forgotten souls”. Feeling anguish over the continuing European immigrant crisis in particular, Larcher poured his feeling into this work.

Thousands upon thousands of people drowned in the Mediterranean while all of Europe stood on the sidelines idly observing this tragedy or even looking away. [The symphony] is a symbol for what has been going on and is still going on in the middle of Europe. – Thomas Larcher

Performances of Larcher’s works in the next few months include Ouroboros for cello and chamber orchestra by the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra on 13 September with cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras and conductor Per Kristian Skalstad, and by the BBC Philharmonic on 13 October with cellist Matthew Barley and Ben Gernon conducting. On 6 October, Edward Gardner will conduct A Padmore Cycle with tenor Mark Padmore and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra. The Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich conducted by Yutaka Sado will perform Red and Green in Austria from 7-10 October.