Sometime Voices

George Benjamin (1960)

Sometime Voices 1996

3333-4331- timp - perc(4) - cel - 2 harp - mandolin - banjo - strings
Duration 
9
Solist 
Text Author 
Language 
Publisher 

This short work explores Caliban’s famous speech in Act 3 Scene 2 of Shakespeare’s The Tempest in which he describes a magical music pervading the island on which he lives: Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices, That if I then had waked after long sleep, Will make me sleep again, and then in dreaming The clouds methought would open and show riches Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked, I cried to dream again. The savage Caliban sings fiercely in long, melismatic phrases. Around him the orchestra drifts between an eerie tranquillity and mercurial activity, almost permanently pianissimo. I imagined that this music was happening, as in a dream, within Caliban’s mind, although its capricious behaviour is beyond his control. Sometimes quiet and beguiling, at turns more sinister, the chorus, acting as spirits, chant only one word during the piece – Caliban’s name. Suddenly, towards the end, all instrumental and vocal forces erupt in a sustained and colossal tutti. This cuts off abruptly, revealing Caliban bewildered and stunned at the end of his vision. At all times I wanted to achieve an extreme clarity of texture and deep integration between the baritone line and its harmonic environment. As a consequence of this, the harmonic core is consonant and transparent; this, in turn, breeds a wide variety of other harmonic strands and materials as it progresses. The large orchestra employs a quartet of plucked instruments - banjo, mandolin and two harps - and a trio of xylophones (playing super-fast tremolos with side-drum sticks), though these unusual timbres are used sparingly. Sometime Voices was commissioned for the Hallé Orchestra to open the inaugural concert at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall in September 1996, and is dedicated to the conductor of its premiere Kent Nagano.

George Benjamin

Performances 
11.9.96 Bridgewater Hall, Manchester: William Dazeley/Hallé Orchestra and Choir/Kent Nagano
18.8.98 BBC Proms, London: BBC Symphony Orchestra / David Wilson-Johnson / Oliver Knussen
25.7.99 Tanglewood Contemporary Music Festival, USA: Drew Poling / Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra and Chorus / George Benjamin
6.6.02 Lyon, France: Ludivic Tezier / Orchestre National de Lyon / David Robertson
23.3.03 Ars Musica Festival, Brussels: William Dazeley / Orchestre Symphonique et Choeurs de la Monnaie /Kazushi Ono
4.5.03 Barbican Hall, London: William Dazeley / London Symphony Orchestra / Sir Colin Davis;
9.5.03 BAM, New York: Assaf Astrindky / Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra / Canticum Novum Singers / Robert Spano
13.2.05 Berlin, Germany: Dietrich Henschel / Deutsche Symphonie Orchester Berlin / Rundfunkchor Berlin/ Kent Nagano
1.10.05 Stuttgart, Germany: James Bobby / SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart / Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra / Heinz Holliger
12.2.05 Madrid, Spain: William Dazeley / BBC Singers / Orquesta Nacionales de Espana / George Benjamin
3
Flute
1st & 2nd doubling piccolo, 3rd doubling piccolo and alto flute
3
Oboe
3
Clarinet
3rd doubling bass clarinet
3
Bassoon
3rd contrabassoon
4
Horn
3
Trumpet
3rd doubling piccolo trumpet
3
Trombone
1
Tuba
1
Timpani
4
Percussion
3 xylphone, timpani, tam-tam, 2 bass drum, 3 glockenspiel
2
Harp
1
Piano
celesta
2
Other
mandolin, banjo
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