Aimard reunites with Stefan Asbury on February 12 to give the American premiere of Sir Harrison Birtwistle's Responses: sweet disorder and the carefully careless in three performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Symphony Hall. This is the fourth of the ensembles that co-commissioned the work for Aimard, and these performances follow concerts in Munich, also under the directorship of Asbury, in Porto with Peter Eötvös, and in London under Vladimir Jurowski, which highlighted “Birtwistle at 80” celebrations at the Royal Festival Hall. Jurowski was originally scheduled to conduct the performances in Boston but was forced to withdraw due to via issues.
Birtwistle took his concerto’s subtitle – Sweet disorder and the carefully careless – from an essay collection by Princeton architect Robert Maxwell, which he describes as capturing “the essence of what I’m doing. It’s a resonant phrase. I identify with his ideas on modernism but I take it on a simple level too.” Responses draws on his Gabrieli-inspired ensemble piece, In Broken Images (2012). Like the earlier work, his new concerto makes extensive use of the medieval hocket principle, by which a single melody is shared between voices. “The piece is a dialogue,” he explains: “The whole piece is about hocket: it’s full of it. The piano is able to play one of the voices of the hocket, so allowing it to be heard throughout. The piano here is like a frame and the orchestral response is the window.”
Sir Harrison Birtwistle is one of the contemporary composers that Aimard – as performer, programmer, and commissioner – has most consistently championed. Ten years ago, during the English composer’s 70th birthday celebrations at London’s Royal Festival Hall, he gave performance”of Birtwistle’s first piano concerto, Antiphonies.
A video of Aimard in rehearsal for October’s world premiere of Responses with the Bavarian Radio Symphony and Stefan Asbury is available here, featuring an exclusive interview with the composer.