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 Richard Blackford discusses KALON

String Quartet & String Orchestra

Kalon is the Greek word for perfect physical and moral beauty, as conceived by the philosophers of Classical Greece. The three movements explore different aspects of Kalon, also the context in which beauty can exist in ugliness and darkness.  Movement I is a celebratory exploration of subject and countersubject in contrasting tempi; Movement II dramatizes the tempo conflicts with persistent interruptions and dissolves; Movement III explores complex overlapping music in which a single pulse mainly synchronises the two groups. Whereas Movements I and III mostly combine the two groups throughout, Movement II, the longest and most dramatic, presents each group in sustained sections before they are set into conflict with each other.

At twenty-four minutes Kalon is by far the most ambitious work that I attempted during my PhD degree at Bristol University and was written from 2015-2016. In choosing a string quartet and string orchestra playing in consistently different tempi I wished to explore new antiphonal possibilities, new rules of counterpoint, new definitions of rhythmic consonance and dissonance. It was originally conceived for two orchestral groups separated on the concert platform with two conductors. I then tried to simplify the concept by writing it for two string orchestras, again with two conductors, being attracted to the antiphonal effect in Bartok’s Music For Strings, Percussion and Celesta. I then read that the Cavatina from Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 13 op.130 had been selected as the final work on the Voyager Record, containing a broad sample of Earth’s sounds, languages and music and lauched into space in 1977.  I found the idea of a string quartet and Beethoven’s Cavatina in interstellar space so moving I decided to score Kalon for string quartet and string orchestra. My chosen ensemble also has kinship with the concerto grosso, and my initial concern that the piece would require two conductors was allayed by Martyn Brabbins, who affirmed that even in the most complex collisions of multiple tempi, one conductor would suffice. I created a number of simulations on Logic, bouncing the string quartet’s music onto audio and then inputting a new sequence for the music of the string orchestra. I rejected sketch after sketch, discovering that if the music of each group was too complex, the combination of the two groups in multiple tempi sounded a mess. Ligeti’s Foreword kept reminding me that the key to the complexity I sought by combining two tempi lay in the simplicity of each group. In this regard I also found Harrison Birtwistle’s preface to the score of Theseus Game (written for two instrumental groups with two conductors) particularly relevant: “Here the intention behind using two conductors was to allow a greater amount of freedom than would be possible otherwise. The various layers are mostly quite simple in themselves, but with two conductors it was possible to fly in different directions and do things that could not be done with only one. If things are too complex they cancel each other out”

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From the Catalogue

Cameo Classics is now owned by The Lyrita Recorded Edition Trust which was founded by the late Richard Itter to promote British Classical Music through the Lyrita label and to curate the Itter Broadcast Collection. “We will operate Cameo alongside the Lyrita label, both of them being distributed under exclusive licence by Nimbus / Wyastone. The important British premieres that appeared on Cameo, works by Somervell, Blower, and Howell among others, will be re mastered and recompiled for immediate issue on the Lyrita label. The remaining Cameo titles will be re mastered and re-presented with a new design during 2018, alongside a new release programme drawn from the non-British material contained in the Itter Broadcast Collection.” Adrian Farmer, Lyrita Trustee

Itter Broadcast Collection
Richard Itter had a life-long fascination with recording and he acquired professional equipment for disc and tape recording for solely private use. From his home in Burnham he was able to receive a strong signal from the BBC Wrotham transmitter, which was constructed in 1951 and began broadcasting VHF/FM on 2 May 1955. His domestic recordings from BBC transmissions (including Proms, premieres, operas, symphonies and chamber music – more than 2000 works in total), date from 1952-1996. Everything was initially recorded on magnetic tape, but up to 1955 particularly important performances were transferred to acetate disc. These fragile discs were never played and have remained in excellent condition, as have the majority of the tapes which make up the bulk of the collection. In 2014 the Lyrita Recorded Edition Trust began to transfer this priceless archive and has put in place formal agreements with both the BBC and the Musicians Union to enable the release of these archived items to the public.

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sales@wyastone.co.uk