Woven Space | Rattle and the LSO premiere Grime's new work

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Sir Simon Rattle will conduct the London Symphony Orchestra in the first performances of Woven Space by Helen Grime at the Barbican, London, on April 19 and 26 and the Alte Oper, Frankfurt, on April 28. The 20-minute piece has been commissioned by the Barbican for the conductor’s inaugural season as Music Director at the LSO, and takes its inspiration from the work of British sculptor Laura-Ellen Bacon.

Working largely with natural materials, Bacon’s artworks embrace, surround or even engulf architectural and natural landscapes. The title of Grime's new piece (and its large central movement) is borrowed from Bacon’s 2009 willow sculpture created in the gardens of Chatsworth House. While the composer does not set out to create a literal musical representation of the artwork, parallels with the intertwined stems which wrap around the ancient yew tree can perhaps be heard in the interlaced lines of Grime’s score.

Audiences were given a preview of Woven Space in the autumn when its first movement, Fanfares, was performed at the opening concert of the London Symphony Orchestra’s 17-18 season. Responding to the premiere, the Financial Times praised Grime’s “intoxicating music that, in its riotous display of orchestral colour, harnesses the LSO’s exuberance”.

It is just over a decade since the London Symphony Orchestra commissioned and premiered Virga, one of Grime’s earliest orchestral pieces, which was subsequently conducted by Pierre Boulez and Daniel Harding, among others, and recorded on the NMC label by the Hallé Orchestra and Sir Mark Elder.

Woven Space is the latest of Grime’s pieces to take the visual arts as its starting point. The American artist Joseph Cornell was the inspiration behind both the 2012 orchestral piece Night Songs and 2014 string trio Aviary Sketches, whilst the piano trio Three Whistler Miniatures references paintings which hang in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Most recently, Two Eardley Pictures drew on paintings of Joan Eardley depicting the landscapes of north east Scotland where Grime grew up.

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