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2020/02/10

Work of the Week – Julian Anderson: Litanies

On 12 February, Pascal Rophé will direct the Orchestre National de Radio France and soloist Alban Gerhardt in the world premiere of Julian Anderson’s Litanies for cello and orchestra as part of the annual Festival Présences.

Litanies is the result of a joint commission between Radio France, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Det Norske Kammerorkester, The Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne. It is Anderson’s third solo concerto, following In Lieblicher Bläue for violin and orchestra and The Imaginary Museum for piano and orchestra.

Like the previous two concertos, in Litanies Anderson presents a reimagining the concerto’s archetypal musical form. While Litanies may not on the outset sound like a traditional concerto, below the surface the work confronts the three-movement form directly, dividing the work into three defined sections. At the heart of which is a chorale in memory of Anderson’s friend, the composer and conductor Oliver Knussen, who died in July 2018.
Julian Anderson – Litanies: “style incantatoire”

The slow central movement became a sustained threnody for him, and to some extent the incantatory character of the music became more pronounced – hence the title. Litanies is my contribution to the so-called ‘style incantatoire’ – Julian Anderson

Further performances of Litanies this season will be given by Alban Gerhardt with Hong Kong Sinfonietta (21 March), City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (2 April), and Det Norske Kammerorkester (12 May). Later this year, on 13 June, the BBC Singers will give the world premiere of SING, an early choral work by Anderson at Aldeburgh Festival.