With its year-long planning and very careful execution, the Hebrides Ensemble’s International Composers’ Seminar, held this week in Edinburgh, deserves its grand title; although it might also be described as a ‘workshop’ where five new works were rehearsed, discussed and filmed. Aimed at post-education composers (a highly numerous group these days, given the modern expansion of composition graduate studies) the call for scores attracted hundreds of international entries. Our five finalists came from Italy, Latvia, Greece, England and Scotland.
Selecting the scores to feature was inevitably a lengthy process, and I will be the first to admit that in the end there’s always an element of randomness of choice that creeps in alongside the hours of beard-scratching deliberation. Luckily therefore, I couldn’t in the end have been happier with the range of approaches that our group of composers exemplified: exact notations with free timings (Stathis Kampylis) extended string techniques (Aileen Sweeney) Kurtag-ish fragments referencing classical harmony (Gianluca Verlingieri) fully-notated miniatures in random settings (James Williamson) detailed ensemble textures (Madara Petersone).
Leading the day’s progress, I was properly grateful that the five works had been previously rehearsed (under conductor Ben Lunn) that they all had ample workshop time on the day, and that there was a concluding concert, giving extra incentive to move the music on from rehearsal to performance. So often in ‘workshop-land’ one or all of these pre-conditions is missing, causing frustration and bad feelings from many points of view. So, thanks again to Hebrides (especially hard-working artistic director Will Conway, pictured ) for showing us how it can ideally be done.