NIGHTFIRES (2016)

for large orchestra

 

World Premiere:

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra | Ilan Volkov

City Halls Glasgow

7th April 2016

Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3

 

A BBC Commission

 

Instrumentation:

picc.2.3.2.bcl.2.cbn | 4.3.3.1 | timp.perc(3):4tom-t/3cowbells/anvil/tam-t/BD/2bongos/susp.cym/h-hats/2timbales/kickBD/RopeD/t.bells/crot/mar | 14.12.10.8.6

 

Duration: 10'00''

Nightfires is written in one continuous movement which lasts around ten minutes. Titles are usually amongst the last decisions I make as part of my writing process, so unusually for me, I decided on Nightfires as the title for the work long before the musical material existed (even in sketch form). The work is designed to be a hard-hitting, energised concert-opener. There was little intention to write programmatic music, but more to use the title as a catalyst for the piece (I often utilise “quietly evocative” titles as a “way in” for listeners). This created a deliberately ambiguous and abstract canvas in which I have been able to draw on my own interpretation of the dark, brooding, ominous imagery conjured in my mind by Nightfires.

 

The work is for the most part an elongated, baleful melody which is continuously shadowed and shrouded by a highly energised, often angular, musical landscape. Shrill winds and unrelenting brass ostinatos underpin lopsided grooves and loops which eventually fall away to reveal a solo cello. Its frantic, breathless material is quickly subsumed and damaged by the return of the noisy, acrid brass and pungent, bitter strings.

 

The work has one brief moment of hiatus with cleansing, restrained string chords. All-too-quickly, these chords are smothered, and the work is hurled towards the climax where shrieking trumpets reprise their opening fanfares before propelling towards the work's end.

"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."

Michael Tumelty, the Herald

"...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

"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."

Ken Walton, the Scotsman

TO THE LIGHT (2017)

for chamber orchestra

 

World Premiere:

Scottish Chamber Orchestra | Joseph Swensen

Ayr Town Hall

22nd November 2017

Instrumentation:

2.2.2(2=bcl).1.cbn | 2.2.0.0 | timp | 8.6.4.4.2

 

Duration: 14'00''

To the Light is, in its most basic of forms, a movement from darkness to light which surges through an arch-form structure. The music exists as one continuous movement, but can be divided into three distinct sections: a quiet, restrained opening within which a baleful, wistful solo cello wails above dark string chords; a potent, insistent middle where the brass vie for supremacy against the strings; and a return to the yearning material found in the opening, but only this time the music has in many ways been distilled, or damaged, by the energised middle section that preceded it. 

 

The descending trio of chords heard at the opening of To the Light underpin the entire body of harmonic material found within the piece. This harmonic sound-world, which infects the whole work, was created by utilising rotations and extensions of these chords. These various iterations also led to the construction of the melodic material, which is dominated by minor sixths and thirds. The energised middle section is essentially a collage of musical moments which are hung together by these chordal progressions and melodic ideas. These series of moments lead breathlessly to the climax of the piece: a cleansing arrival into Db minor which quickly dissipates. 

 

To the Light was commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra with funding from the PRS for Music Foundation, Cruden Foundation, and RVW Trust. It is dedicated to my grandfather, Alexander Scott, who died in 2016. 

"Harrold’s writing is precise and clean-textured, yet he imbues the work with a dazzling warmth and emotive density."

Ken Walton, The Scotsman

"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"

Ken Bruce, The Herald

"The strong, angular central section seemed to lay bare something dark in the soul. The agonised climax brought a return to the opening that brought no reassurance but some hope of resolution in the final, unsettled major passage"

Seen and Heard International

UNCHAINED: premiere performance

UNCHAINED: documentary about the project

UNCHAINED (2018)

for solo percussion, broken bike parts, sinfonietta and tape

 

World Premiere

Colin Currie (perc)

Owen Gunnell (bike parts)

Children's Classic Concerts Essential Orchestra

Tom Harrold (cond)

 

City Halls, Glasgow

10th August 2018

 

Unchained is scored for solo percussion, solo bike parts, electronics, and sinfonietta, and lasts approximately five minutes. It was commissioned in 2017 by Children's Classic Concerts as the centrepiece of their Soundcycle project, which was funded by Glasgow 2018. The project involved running workshops at schools across Glasgow, and recording broken bike noises created by the workshop participants, and embedding these sound within the work. 

 

This short, intense work sets the solo percussion and bike parts on a frantic journey to escape from the rest of the ensemble – they are continuously interrupted by the ensemble's angry, seething music, from which the soloists never quite seem to be able to escape. The electronics which punctuate the music throughout are created from sounds created exclusively from broken bike parts, further adding to the unsettled sound-world of the piece. There is something evil lurking within...

RAZE (2016)

for large orchestra

 

World Premiere:

BBC Symphony Orchestra | Proms Youth Ensemble | Sakari Oramo

Royal Albert Hall, London

10th September 2016

Broadcast live on BBC Radio 3, BBC Two and internationally

 

A BBC Proms Commission for the Last Night of the Proms

 

Instrumentation:

2.2.2.bcl.asax.2.cbn | 4.6.3.1 | timp.perc(2):4tom-t/2cowbells/anvil/tam-t/BD/2bongos/h-hats/kickBD | 12.10.8.6.4

 

Duration: 4'30''

Raze is written in one continuous movement which lasts around five minutes, and was commissioned by the BBC Proms to showcase the Proms Youth Ensemble at the Last Night of the Proms. Titles are almost consistently the final decisions I make as part of the writing process, so it was highly unusual for me to decide on Raze as the title before the piece had even been sketched. I rarely intend to write programmatic music, but in this instance I use the title as a 'way in' to the work. Raze means ‘clear the way’, ‘overthrow’, and ‘knock down’ - exactly the impact Raze is designed to have at a noisy, carnival-like concert such as the Last Night of the Proms.

 

The piece is a collage of angular, brash musical moments which are linked through a series of repeating intervals and melodic motifs, all of which are underpinned by swaggering, brooding bass-lines. The work is characterised by sour, baleful strings, blaring brass, and cacophonous, raucous winds which ‘raise’, soar, and hurtle towards the climax. 

 

Raze is dedicated to the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Proms Youth Ensemble, and Sakari Oramo.

"...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.”

The Times

"Raze proved a flamboyant curtain-raiser...boisterous, rhythmically intricate, played with winning enthusiasm" 

The Standard

"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.” The Arts Desk

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

The Guardian

"thumpingly rhythmical"

The Financial Times

WRITHE (2014)

for large orchestra

 

World Premiere:

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / Frank Zielhorst (cond): 28th February 2015

The Lighthouse, Poole, Dorset

 

Instrumentation:

picc.2.2.corA.2.bcl.2.cbn | 4.3.3.1 | timp/perc(2): 4 tom-t/xylo/BD/glock/SD | strings(14.12.10.8.6)

 

Duration: 5'00''

Writhe is a short, energetic work for large symphony orchestra. The work opens with an uncompromising brass ostinato that becomes a feature, providing drive and impetus to the piece. The orchestration is generally chiseled and block- like, with the material being predominantly in the strings and horns. The brass' stabbing material punctuates these angular, acrid, often shrill melodic lines that are laced with thick, heavy doublings that contort and twist the lines out of shape. T.H. 

BREAKOUT (2013)

for solo percussion and large orchestra

 

World Premiere:

Torgeir Fausken (perc) / RNCM Symphony Orchestra / Wilbur Lin (cond): 16th January 2013

RNCM Concert Hall, Manchester

 

Instrumentation:

3(III=picc).2.2.bcl.2.cbn | 4.3.2.cbtn.1 | timp/perc(2): xylo/vib/t.bells/tam-t/guiro/sups.cym/crash.cym/BD(2) solo: splash cym/hi-h/2 bongos/2 boo-b/SD/Rope D/Mar/Pitched Cow bells | strings(12.10.8.6.4)

 

Duration: 10'30''

Breakout was completed in January 2013, and is scored for solo percussion and large orchestra. The work was commissioned by the Norwegian percussionist Torgeir Arnesen (to whom it is dedicated) in the summer of 2012. A striking relationship between the soloist and orchestra is quickly established in the opening of the piece, in which the soloist’s material is continually interrupted, suppressed and surpassed by a tumultuous, loud and brutal orchestra. Despite the soloist beginning confidently, it seems damaged by what is an industrial-sounding orchestra. The middle section brings about quiet and repose; however, the simple melody carried by the soloist is always shadowed and muddied by the orchestra. It is not until the final section of the piece that the percussionist breaks free from the shackles of the orchestra. T.H. 

SHROUDED LICKS (2012)

for saxophone and orchestra

 

World Premiere:

Kyran Matthews (asax) / RNCM Symphony Orchestra / Gergeley Madaras (cond): 25th January 2012

RNCM Concert Hall, Manchester

 

Instrumentation:

solo asax | picc.2.2.corA.2.bcl.2.cbn | 4.3.3.1 | timp/perc(3): xylo/mar/vib/t.bells/3 cow bells/BD/whip/caba/5 tpl.bl/tam-t/hi-h/tamb | strings(12.10.8.6.4)

 

Duration: 8'00''

Shrouded Licks was completed in January 2012. Scored for alto saxophone and symphony orchestra, it was commissioned by the saxophonist Kyran Matthews. The work focuses upon the solo line being disguised by the rest of the orchestra, hidden beneath bubbling textures. The saxophone's virtuosity is always enveloped by the orchestra; even in moments of soloistic freedom, it seems stunted, almost hurt by the effects of the orchestra. In what few moments it does have as a soloist, its “licks” are quickly subsumed. T.H. 

FANFARE FOR A NEW ORCHESTRA (2011)

for orchestra

 

World Premiere:

Birmingham Festival Orchestra / Jamie Phillips (cond): 27th August 2011

CBSO Centre, Birmingham

 

Instrumentation:

picc.2.2.corA.2.bcl.2.cbn | 4.3(I=Eb).3.1 | timp/perc(4): SD/BD/tam-t/xylo | strings(14.12.10.8.6)

 

Duration: 4'00''

Fanfare for a New Orchestra is a short, punchy piece written for the occasion of opening the first concert of the Birmingham Festival Orchestra. The work is intended to be an uplifting beginning to this concert, and is dedicated, with my admiration, to my dear friend Jamie Phillips. 

© 2020 TOM HARROLD tom@tomharrold.net

 

MAIN PHOTOS CREDIT RICHARD ION / MATT EACHUS