First Performances--BBC Proms 2013

Diana Burrell, Harrison Birtwistle, Param Vir and Charlotte Seither

Paul Conway

As in previous Proms seasons, Cadogan Hall's 2013 chamber concerts series presented some of the most interesting repertoire. On 5 August, Tine Thing Helseth and her all-female brass ensemble tenThing gave the world premiere of a new piece by Diana Burrell. She has already written a substantial work for brass ensemble, Gold, dating from 2001 (which also requires 3 gongs and a piano), and her new BBC commission has a similarly punchy title capturing the bright and burnished qualities of its instrumentation - Blaze. Scored for three trumpets, flugelhorn, horn, three tenor trombones, bass trombone and tuba, this virtuosic, 10-minute showcase grabbed the audience's attention from the start with a striking, fanfare-like idea that recurred in extended form as unison chords during the closing bars, providing an incandescent coda. In a brief pre-performance talk, the composer spoke of the often-untapped technical capabilities of brass instruments, and her demanding piece successfully tapped into this potential, as she gave each performer a chance to shine within its teeming textures. In addition to these challenging solo episodes, the score was memorable for its inventive deployment of various combinations of instruments, denoting a genuinely chamber-oriented work. Blaze provided a strong focal point for a programme that otherwise consisted solely of arrangements, nearly all by guitarist Jarle Storl√łkken, of repertoire originally conceived for other forces, such as piano pieces by Grieg and excerpts from Carmen and The Threepenny Opera.

Journal Tempo
Year 2014
Volume 68
Issue 267
Pages 57-59

Conway, Paul (2014) First Performances--BBC Proms 2013: Diana Burrell, Harrison Birtwistle, Param Vir and Charlotte Seither. In: Tempo, Vol. 68, No. 267, pp. 57-59. Available at


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