Nuits d'Afrique


My 2015 composition Nuits d’Afrique, for voice, flute, cello and piano, has just received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall. Sparkling Irish soprano Ailish Tynan (who appears characteristically as an energetic blur in the picture) was due to perform the piece last year, but at the last moment had to cancel, having suffered an industrial accident involving a poke in the eye from a weighty Handel score during a concert in a dark chapel. Although she recovered almost instantly, we weren’t able to find a new date for this particular venue and group of musicians until this week.

At the first rehearsal Ailish was accompanied by her new baby, Daisy. As the opening song of ‘Nuits’ is a lullaby, Daisy listened to us graciously, and perhaps with professional interest, as a soprano’s baby. We all felt that our enterprise – a gorgeous programme built around Ravel’s Chanson Madécasses – had been blessed by her presence, unimagined when the new music was itself in gestation. The very day after, I came upon a relevant remark by Artur Schnabel (made to Clifford Curzon, and cited by Robert Philip) about how to play Brahms' Intermezzo op 117/1, also a lullaby: "Think of the singing mother, not the sleeping child !"

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JUDITH WEIR

Composer