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Press release

  • 2 May 2006

Brighton Festival premiere with old friends for Sussex composer

Stand and deliver: the Brodsky Quartet

Stand and deliver: the Brodsky Quartet

A new work by University of Sussex lecturer and composer Professor Martin Butler will be premiered by the world-famous Brodsky Quartet, with viola soloist John Metcalfe, at the Brighton Festival this year.

The string ensemble, who have worked with pop heroes Bjork and Elvis Costello as well as forging a reputation in classical performance, will play Professor Butler's composition Sentinels in the Royal Pavilion's music room on 23 May at 8pm.

This not the first Brodsky-Butler collaboration. "They did my very first quartet, unpublished, when we were all at the Royal Northern College of Music together," remembers Professor Butler. "That was back in 1979. And they premiered my second quartet at the Cheltenham Festival in 1984."

Sentinels is Professor Butler's third commission for the Brighton Festival, following On the Rocks (for piano) in 1992, and Carillon in 1998. The new piece, written this year, lasts 11 minutes and was inspired by the Brodsky's unusual performance style.

"With the exception of the 'cellist, they play standing up," says Professor Butler. "I imagined the four standing players to be acting as sentries, standing guard, keeping watch over the seated cellist and patrolling their space - hence the title. Then a friend pointed me in the direction of the opening scene of Hamlet - with its sentries, its sinister and slightly surreal atmosphere, its ghost, its uncertainty and apprehensiveness - and the flavour of the piece was fixed."

The evening also includes performances of Mozart's Quintet KV515, Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 9 in E flat major, and Stravinsky's Concertino.

Professor Butler, who has taught at the University since 1988, has also recently been chosen as Brighton Philharmonic Orchestra's 'composer in focus' for the 2006-2007 season. The orchestra will perform several of his pieces, including Dirty Beasts, Piano Concertino and Fixed Doubles. In addition, he has been commission to write a 20-minute orchestral piece and will be giving talks and carrying out educational outreach work with the orchestra.

Professor Butler says: "It's a real honour and very flattering to be chosen for this role, and I look forward to working with the orchestra in a number of contexts over the next two years."

Brighton Philharmonic's conductor Barry Wordsworth says: ""The presentation of new work is a vital ingredient to any orchestra's programming, and I am thrilled that we will have an association with Martin that will allow us to present several of his works during the next season. We are fortunate to have such a distinguished composer in our midst, and the association will enable the orchestra, and our audience to appreciate fully the new work he will write especially for us to be performed in 2008."

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