Hammer Time: Turnage premiere on-line for a week

A new piece by a major contemporary composer is always something of an event – I still get ridiculously excited when a Steve Reich premiere is announced – and a new work by Mark-Anthony Turnage will always be exciting, challenging, and slightly alarming: you never quite know what you’re in for.

Mark-Anthony TurnageLast night, the BBC Symphony Orchestra and David Robertson gave the first performance of Turnage’s new Hammered Out, commisioned for the Proms. Turnage’s familiar thumbprints are all there: shrieking orchestral textures, brash walls of brass, chattering woodwind and driving percussion. Funky rhythms and homophonic brass writing (Turnage is an avowed fan of James Brown and Tower of Power), the piece is a wildly exuberant celebration of orchestral writing meeting elements of popular music and a go-to-hell attitude to the composer’s own fiftieth birthday year.

Turnage sounds as fresh as ever, the sound-worlds of his earlier Three Screaming Popes and Drowned Out still vibrantly alive.

You can hear the piece on-line for the next seven days here, and the concert itself will be repeated on Radio 3 next week, at which point it will again be available for another week.

Two weeks to enjoy a new work by Turnage: now that’s a real treat.

(And here’s a short extract from Turnage’s previous piece, Texan Tenebrae, from his forthcoming opera about the life of Anna Nicole Smith, in rehearsal).

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