Brian Ferneyhough’s Cycle ›Umbrations‹

From Witten via Frankfurt to Paris, Huddersfield and Vienna

Dense and complex: these are two of the most important attributes when describing Brian Ferneyhough’s music. Hardly anyone else in the generation of the British composer, born in 1943, clothes his ideas in such densely woven, multi-faceted structures. However, the idiosyncratic compositional technique of this »New Complexity« is not an end unto itself. Ferneyhough ultimately considers art a means of questioning our reality – especially when it turns its back on the world and focuses exclusively on its inner laws. The fact that this does not necessarily always mean abstraction, but may also include historical dimensions, is demonstrated by Ferneyhough’s cycle ›Umbrations‹, which is inspired by the music of the English renaissance composer Christopher Tye and which Ferneyhough continues in his own idiom. The variable instrumentations of the eleven movements are reminiscent of the renaissance tradition of the »broken consort«, indicating the use of instruments from different families. »The combination of the individual pieces, which were written over a period of more than ten years, is less a formally balanced ›cycle‹ than an open collection, whose order is not determined by the date of composition, but by instrumentation, contrasts and similarities«, says Ferneyhough. First performed by the Arditti Quartet and Ensemble Modern on May 5, 2017 at the Witten Days of New Chamber Music and then performed in Frankfurt, the work will also have its French premiere at the Festival d’Automne à Paris on October 7, 2017, its British premiere at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival on November 18, 2017 and its Austrian premiere at Wien Modern on November 23, 2018.