GEORGE STEVENSON | COMPOSER
Braided Waters | Orchestra | 8mins | 2021 ~ Our most persistent ideas of ritual and celebration have taken strange paths through time, and across the world as populations spread out. This music was driven by the image of these ideas as braided streams of water twisting and weaving their way around obstacles in history and geography to be reinvigorated and cherished by new generations. Commissioned for the Royal Scottish National Orchestra through the 2020-21 RSNO Composers’ Hub Scheme. Perusal Score
Vanishing City | Large Orchestra | 6mins | 2020 ~ Dedicated to the climbers of Leningrad, who scaled and camouflaged the city’s prominent buildings and monuments during the siege of 1941-1944, preventing their use as reference points by German bombers. Commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra through the LSO Discovery Panufnik Composers Scheme, supported by The Helen Hamlyn Trust. To be premiered in 2021 at the Barbican. Perusal Score
False Summit | Large Orchestra | 4mins | 2018 ~ Based on the writings of renowned mountaineer and original Everest Committee member C. F. Meade, exploring ideas of expectation in landscape and sound. Commissioned by the London Symphony Orchestra through the LSO Discovery Panufnik Composers Scheme, supported by The Helen Hamlyn Trust. Perusal Score
Hraun Eyer | 3Fl(3=A.Fl)-Pno | 3mins | 2020 ~ Rona is a small island in the Scottish Inner Hebrides next to Skye. The name is believed to be of Old Norse origin, from 'hraun eyer' meaning 'rough island'.
Trees Made of Air | Fl(=Picc)-Cl(=BCl)-Pno-2Vln-Vla-Vc | 9mins | 2019 ~ Richard Feynman questioned absolutely everything. It made him one of the greatest minds in 20th century Physics, but also the most marvellous explainer of things. With unique perspective and irresistible enthusiasm, he drew our attention to the strange and beautiful truths behind even the most familiar of things. “And so it turns out that trees are made of air! When they burn, they go back to air, releasing the flaming heat of the Sun which converted the air to a tree in the first place!” Feynman’s infectious curiosity became entwined with this music as it began to evolve around re-discovering wonder in the familiar - from the bizarre elegance and raw energy of natural processes, to a renewed interest in some purer musical building blocks. The flow of the piece also emulates Feynman’s way of explaining things - a relentless questioning of the same phenomena from different angles, leading to a deeper and stranger view of reality. The work was premiered by Psappha as their 2019 Peter Maxwell Davies Commission.
Arrival | String Quartet | 3mins | 2019 ~ Premiered at The White House, Edinburgh, by Michael Trainor, Agata Daraskaite, Fran McGuinness Gilbert & Peteris Sokolovskis.
Overlap | Tpt-2Vln-Vla-Vc | 4mins | 2019 ~ This commission from Henry Spencer began life as a set of short solo trumpet improvisations he recorded for me over the course of several months. The final piece flowed so naturally from these initial ideas that the music never quite feels fully mine, nor fully Henry’s, existing on its own as a celebration of our overlapping musical lives. ‘Overlap’ was recorded in June 2019 for a forthcoming album release.
In Ruin | Cl-Bsn-Hn-2Vln-Vla-Vc-Db | 8mins | 2018 ~ This music recalls a chance encounter with a vast abandoned factory, partly submerged after heavy rains. Wading through the rubble, each movement examines the remains of the structure from different angles and reflections, interrupted by fleeting imaginings of its former life. Commissioned by The Berkeley Ensemble through PRS for Music's Accelerate Scheme for emerging composers.
Les Machines de l'île | Wind Quintet | 5mins | 2017 ~ A strange universe of mechanical beasts has been brought to life on the Island of Nantes, known as Les Machines de l’île (The Machines of the Island). The elegant internal mechanisms of these mobile sculptures are clearly visible from the outside, writhing and whirring as they approach. In a similar way, the broad range of timbres in a wind quintet often seems to allow the internal mechanism of its music to be clearly discerned, while leaving the overall impact of the composition intact. The piece was commissioned by Canadian wind quintet Pentaèdre and will be premiered in Montréal in late 2018.
Bana-sar | Fl(=Picc.)-Cl(=B.Cl)-Vln-Vc | 5mins | 2017 ~ In his novel 'Magnus', George Mackay Brown describes the two rival heirs to the Earldom of Orkney as 'lips of an open wound' threatening the peace and prosperity of the islands. Bana-sar (the Old Norse term for a mortal wound) takes fragments of the Hymn to St Magnus as its musical 'lips', exploring their warped interplay through a series of painful ruptures. The piece received the St Magnus Festival Composers' prize marking the 900th anniversary of the saint's death, and was premiered in St Magnus Cathedral in June 2017 by musicians of The Assembly Project, beside the remains of St Magnus himself.
Linea | String Quintet | 4mins | 2017 ~ Commissioned by Juncture ensemble, 'Linea' refers to the enormous, unexplained dark lines which scar the surface of Jupiter's fourth largest moon, Europa. The work acts as an overlapping prelude to the Henry Spencer composition ‘Never Draw a Line’, and was premiered in London in February 2017.
Stavropol | Fl-Cl-Vl-Vc-Pn-Perc | 7mins | 2016 ~ Stavropol is a beautiful region of Southern Russia, and was the destination of a research trip with Moscow Conservatoire Traditional Music Department. Its interesting and often surprisingly dissonant folk music was the inspiration for this piece, recorded with Sir James MacMillan and RCS New Music ensemble in August 2016.
Meltwater | Viola Octet | 7mins | 2016 ~ An attempt to conjure up the sights and sounds of a thawing landscape. Originally commissioned for Viola Octet by the Moscow Viola Festival and premiered by Violists of the Russian National Orchestra at Dom Cultural Centre, Moscow in June 2016. The music was later re-worked for String Quartet, winning Creative Scotland’s ‘The Night With…’ Composition Competition in April 2017.
Fragments | String Quartet | 11mins | 2016 ~ Based on a Russian folk tale, the first movement ('Opening’) sees a violent storm bringing down the oldest tree in the forest, the remains of which are discovered by a travelling craftsman the next day. He spends time carefully getting to know the wood and understanding its mysterious character ('Theme') before settling down to fashion it into a series of curious figures, toys and even tools ('Fragments') which seem to come alive in his hands. Premiered by musicians of Yuri Bashmet’s New Russia Orchestra at Myaskovsky Hall, Moscow in June 2016. UK premiere given by The Brodick Quartet in August, 2016.
Glimpses | Vln-Vc-Pno | 9mins | 2015 ~ Five short glimpses of Russian life while travelling throughout the country. The piece was awarded second prize at the Yuri Bashmet Composition Competition, Sochi in February 2016.
SOLO & DUO
Flashbacks | Piano Solo | 4mins | 2019 ~ These pieces were commissioned by Gamal Khamis and Christopher Kent to be performed as part of their narrative recital ‘Odyssey – Words and music of Finding Home’. The starting point for the music was the strong impression left by the characters and images of their previous project entitled 'Never Such Innocence' - readings and music from the First World War. The idea of 'Finding Home’ is considered here from the perspective of re-finding normality after war, rather than any specific journey. The ‘Flashbacks’ themselves are a series of imagined interruptions in the mind of one struggling to return to their old life after a period of sustained trauma and loss.
Algol | Alto Flute and Clarinet | 5mins | 2018 ~ From 93 light years away in the constellation of Perseus, the Demon Star winks at us. Roughly once every three days its bright blue light becomes bloodshot and fades for a few hours, before blazing out once more. For the ancient Greeks, it marked the blinking eye of the Gorgon Medusa, whose head was severed by Perseus. The star’s more common name, Algol, derives from the Arabic al-ghul – the ghoul. Like many lights in our night sky, Algol is actually a pair of stars held tightly together by gravity in a strange elliptical duet. Algol’s dance is a special one however, as one of its stars periodically eclipses the other, resulting in the curious behaviour which gave it its name. In this music, the overlapping registers of Alto Flute and Clarinet take on the roles of Algol's two stars. True to the astronomical reality, their proximity allows material to be exchanged constantly, as they gradually take on each other's characteristics. While their future is uncertain, modern astronomy predicts that shared material will eventually envelop them both with potentially explosive consequences. The piece was written for musicians of Psappha Ensemble, and recorded in March 2018.
Ookpik | Flute and Piano | 5mins | 2017 ~ Canadian snowy owls, or 'Ookpik' as they are called in the language of the Canadian Inuit, were sighted recently in Scotland for the first time since 1975. While only a handful of these birds choose such a daunting migratory path, many Scottish emigrants braved similarly harsh conditions on their journey to a new life in Canada. The result is, of course, a rich and diverse shared culture that we are so lucky to have in common. This piece, which made its own journey to Canada to be premiered, draws heavily on the awe-inspiring stories of these travellers and tries to put some of their struggle into the soaring, ice-cold flight of the Ookpik. Commissioned by the Montréal Concert Society as part of an award for winning their 2016 composition competition prize, the work was premiered by Duo Palladium in February 2017 at Espace Olivier Jones, Montréal.
Moscow Sketches | Piano Solo | 6mins | 2016 ~ These three short pieces for young pianists recall fleeting Moscow scenes (I. Night Horses, II. Snow Train, III. Early Morning Bells).
Domovoi | Flute and Harp | 4mins | 2016 ~ Domovoi is a protective domestic spirit in Slavic folklore. Traditionally families should try to remain on his good side by keeping the house tidy and leaving out small gifts, or else he can become rather mischievous. Premiered by Solovey Duo at Forty Hall, London in September 2016. The piece won the Montreal Concert Society composition competition in Autumn 2016.
Crystalline | Flute and Piano | 5mins | 2016 ~ The first of two Dvorak-inspired compositions written over 5 days in strict isolation during the International Dvorak Composition Competition. Based on a theme from Dvorak’s 7th string quartet, this piece will be the compulsory performance work for ‘Moya Lyubimaya Fleyta 2017’, an international flute competition based in Moscow.
New World Variations | Viola & Piano | 7mins | 2016 ~ The second of the Dvorak Competition works, this piece won ‘The Dvorak Prize’ in the senior category. It is to be premiered in 2018 at the Richter Memorial Apartment in Moscow by Darya Filippenko, principal violist of Guiyang Symphony Orchestra.