A poster at the Royal Albert Hall highlighting Tom's BBC Proms career

Tom was invited to be a guest on BBC Two's Proms Plus programme (l-r: Katie Derham, Susan Bickley, Nitin Sawhney, TH)

Article in Classical Music Magazine

Eddie Mair writes about Tom's BBC Radio 3 / BBC Radio 4 / BBC Proms co-commission in the Radio Times

Review in The Times

Review in The Herald

​Tom Harrold is the youngest of all the composers in this year’s Proms season, at just 24. His bold, abrasive sound creates incredibly uneasy yet invigorating performances, and there is little doubt that Raze will make for a thoroughly unusual and exciting opening to the notoriously traditional Last Night. Harrold is a recent graduate of the Royal Northern College of Music, and was the winner of the BBC Proms/Guardian Young Composer’s Competition at the age of 16. The BBC has commissioned his work in the past, including Nightfires in April this year, and Darkened Dreams in 2014, which was broadcast live simultaneously on Radios 3 and 4.

Classical Music Magazine

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It was a group making its Last Night debut - the BBC Proms Youth Ensemble - that opened the show and almost stole it. The youngsters gave the premiere of Raze, a punchy orchestral piece (with nods to the pounding riffs of club music) written by Tom Harrold, a profusely talented Scot who is only 25.

RIchard Morrison, The Times

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A ten-minute work packed with incessant youthful energy, it is, however, remarkable for the confidence and character of its orchestration, and a golden thread of a melody that weaves its way artfully through the surface excitement. This isn't the last we'll hear of Harrold.

Ken Walton, The Scotsman

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"...the most musically arresting is Tom Harrold’s From Dreams for three part boys’ choir and marimba – a combination which works extraordinarily well in this highly atmospheric and spiritually charged recording."

Marc Rochester, Gramophone

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It would be remiss of us not to throw a spotlight on Scottish composer Tom Harrold. He’s in his mid-twenties, and he‘s been around for a while. But I would suggest that in his new piece, Nightfires, commissioned by the BBC and premiered on Thursday in a blazing performance with the SSO using its heavy artillery to maximum advantage, this young man has made a huge mark on the music scene.

The flaring, punchy impact of Nightfires, which gives way to a breathtaking, stomping momentum and a thwackingly-rhythmic sense of drive, was gob-smacking in its ferocity and the composer’s certainty in what was saying, and how confidently he was saying it. Even when the pressure lifted as the violence and action melted into music for a solo cello, the intensity was enormous . I’d dare to suggest that Nightfires, with its incredible seismic heaving, is among the most exciting pieces I’ve heard from a Scottish composer in the last 25 years; since Isobel Gowdie, in fact. And this week, when the Royal Albert Hall Proms are announced, you might watch out for the name of Tom Harrold.

Michael Tumelty, The Herald

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The concert opened with a brief and brazen new work called Nightfires by the young Scottish composer Tom Harrold, in which a solo cello elbows its way out of shrieking trumpets and swaggering double basses to play a frenzied elegy. It’s bold orchestral writing, confident enough to use the brightest of colours and the chunkiest of rhythms. I’d like to hear more. 

Kate Molleson, The Guardian

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Harrold has already been praised in these pages as an important new voice, and To the Light may turn out to be a very significant piece in spreading his reputation. Responding with discipline to the chamber orchestra challenge, he has produced a work that makes maximum use of the more limited instrumental palette, making each section’s input count as brass and tympani enter the score and with a very eloquent solo part for cello, played beautifully by guest principal Alice Neary.

Although the influence is audible in the work’s sonic impact and the use of thematic material, To the Light is more expansive than MacMillan’s vision of Iona, which is not a place of retreat and quiet, but an exporter of unambiguous message.

Keith Bruce, The Herald

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Harrold’s To the Light – a brand new SCO commission – opened the programme. A soft and sumptuous signature trio of chords pave the way for a charm-filled solo cello melody, both of which are the glue holding together this various diversions the happen en route.

Harrold’s writing is precise and clean-textured, yet he imbues the work with a dazzling warmth and emotive density. This motivated performance did it justice.

Ken Walton, The Scotsman

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Raze is impressive in terms of how much drama Harrold packs in, with the concomitant effect that it feels considerably longer. Its thrust (and that seems exactly the right word for it) is a busy, heavyweight, gestural environment, characterised by churning inner movement within a pock-marked surface punctuated with blunt force trauma accents, governed by a more-or-less omnipresent ticking pulse. In the midst of all this, taking a pounding from every side, is a strain (again, exactly the right word) of melodic thought, initially accompanied with a nicely light-footed bassline, that proves itself doggedly persistent despite its inhospitable surroundings. The piece is more brutalist than brutal, though, exhibiting what i suppose could be called a kind of playful masochism, like a roaring fire continually trying to almost blow itself out. Harrold pushes it sufficiently far that more and more instruments become silenced for a time, leading to a sequence of sharply contrasting episodes that one senses, if pushed just a bit farther, could sunder the music permanently. But that sense of play not only keeps it together, but arrives at a full-on final minute that forges a brilliant synthesis of the work’s twin aspects, a lyrical slugfest that brings Raze to a genuinely exhilarating end. What a wonderful way to bid farewell to this year’s Proms season.

Simon Cummings, 5:4

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That sense of forbidding darkness also came through in Tom Harrold’s Into the Light. Harrold is a new composer to me, but his piece made a strong impression on me, and I’m already looking forward to hearing it again. Into the Light played with contrasting textures as well as seemingly conflicted sound pictures, and I appreciated the clarity of the arch structure he uses to take the listener from the spare, etiolated textures of the opening, through an anguished middle, back to an uneasy return of the opening’s sounds. His solo cello had a powerful effect, as did the pairs of brass that called to one another in the opening. Then the strong, angular central section seemed to lay bare something dark in the soul, complete with wailing winds and Bartók pizzicati to underline the stress and point up the drama. The agonised climax brought a return to the opening that brought no reassurance but some hope of resolution in the final, unsettled major passage. Speaking from the podium, Swensen compared Harrold following MacMillan to Beethoven following on from Haydn. That’s a big comparison, and obviously it’s far too early to see if it’s apt. However, Harrold’s piece was striking and memorable, and he’s definitely a voice that I’d like to hear again.

Simon Thompson, Seen and Heard International

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Raze was five minutes of bristling energy and youthful brashness. The brass stabs were searing, the woodwind writing muscular and hectic, and the strings soared above it all.

 

Bernard Hughes, The Arts Desk

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Glaswegian composer Tom Harrold is still in his mid-twenties, and, like L P Hartley once said of the past, they do things differently there. Fortunately, Harrold and his generation are the future, and – foreign or not – we should all embrace the way they do things.

In terms of his composition work itself, this does not present many difficulties. It is exciting and approachable and he clearly sees himself working in a contemporary Scottish tradition, a product both of Clackmannanshire’s David Horne, who was one of his teachers at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where he studied after Douglas Academy in Milngavie, and Ayrshire’s James MacMillan, who has shown just how globally successful a Scots composer can be.

Keith Bruce, The Herald

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“Raze had a pounding energy driving its low, insistent string fragments..."

The Guardian

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"thumpingly rhythmical"

The Financial Times

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A debonair and quietly confident Tom Harrold approached the stage to tell us about his Silent Shores, an Edinburgh Quartet/Creative Scotland commission. He described the image of a mist-shrouded Isle of Arran - not a description of the piece but more of the point of departure in a creative process whose workings defy description. A single movement of three adjoined sections, it contrasted atmospheric outer sections with a more rhythmically assertive centre. The misty opening mood was established with harmonics and pizzicato before Gurney gradually unfolded a beautifully played keening melody whose wide intervals seemed to echo Beethoven's opening. Its extensive use of the minor 3rd, lent a now bluesy, now folky feel. The pleasantly dissonant accompaniment intensified, alternating between sustained and stabbing chords. Transition to the more energetic middle was nicely managed and I was delighted by the unmetered nature of the dance. Mark Bailey's cello switched dramatically from heavy metal bare fifths to a pizzicato bass feel underpinning Fiona Winning's gripping viola solo moment. There then followed the most inspired choice in this pot pourri of independent lines - unison! When the baleful opening returned, both violins scaled stratospherically high registers. Throughout this instantly captivating work I sensed an unmistakable yet impossible to qualify Scottishness. 

Alan Coady, Backtrack

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This Children’s Classic Concert event, presented with athletic ebullience by percussionist Owen Gunnell, featured a star percussion soloist in Scotland’s Colin Currie, and the pair combining forces for the world premiere of an excellent new work by young composer Tom Harrold. It took cycling as its inspiration and required Gunnell to hit a specially-designed kit of bike parts while Currie played a more convention set up of tom-toms, congas, hi-hat and kick bass drum. With big chords from the brass to command the attention of the young crowd, an extended cadenza by the two soloists was the icing on the cake, but Harrold had me onside from the minute I learned he had brilliantly entitled it “Unchained”.

Keith Bruce, The Herald

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The Scottish composer Tom Harrold (born 1991) is studying for a masters at the RNCM. Gentle Skies is another Borealis Saxophone Quartet commission premiered by them in 2013. Harrold's style is not entirely tonal but he has created a quiet lyric piece with a lovely exploration of the intertwining instrumental lines, plus more dramatic interruptions.

Planet Hugill

Review in The Scotsman

© 2019 TOM HARROLD tom@tomharrold.net

 

MAIN PHOTOS CREDIT RICHARD ION / MATT EACHUS