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Julian Anderson

The Comedy of Change

Heaven is Shy of Earth




Sleeve notes in English and sung text with English translation.


October 2018

Catalogue No.:
ODE 1313-2


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Track listing

The Comedy of Change
1 I.

2 II. –

3 III.

4 IV. –

5 V.

6 VI.

7 VII.

Heaven is Shy of Earth
8 Intrada

9 Kyrie

10 Gloria (with Bird)

11 Quam dilecta tabernacula tua

12 Sanctus

13 Agnus Dei

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Complete description

This recording includes the world premiere recording of an oratorio written by Julian Anderson (b. 1967), one of the most remarkable British composers of our era, conducted by the late Oliver Knussen and performed by Susan Bickley and the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. These recordings highlight the art of Julian Anderson and are a unique testimony of artistic collaboration and friendship between him and the conductor that lasted for 37 years.


Julian Anderson was commissioned to write a substantial work for solo mezzo-soprano, chorus and orchestra for the 2006 BBC Proms. This resulted in the creation of Heaven is Shy of Earth, an oratorio based on texts by poet Emily Dickinson. The work also features texts of Latin mass. Despite the predominance of Latin religious texts, this is not a sacred work. The insertions change the whole structure away from denominational Christianity and bring the liturgy out into the natural world as a sort of secular Eucharist – a celebration and sanctification of nature itself. This substantial work ends in a beautiful climax of harmonious ecstasy, a movement which the composer added into the work in 2010.


The Comedy of Change is a work for 12 instruments which pays tribute to Charles Darwin and celebrates the 150th anniversary of the publication of his book The Origin of Species. The composer intended the work to function as both a free-standing concert piece and the score of a ballet. Anderson was concerned with both the inevitable and the unpredictable aspects of change. Anderson writes: ‘I preferred not to be too literal or illustrative: I hope the musical harmonies, textures, rhythms and melodies will be sufficiently vivid to suggest to listeners their own images; or else be heard as the abstract music they essentially are.’ ‘The word “comedy” is to be understood in all its senses, including the old Elizabethan one of a series of misunderstandings with a happy outcome’, the composer adds.


Susan Bickley is one of the most accomplished mezzo-sopranos of her generation, with a wide repertory encompassing the Baroque, the great 19th and 20th century dramatic roles, as well as contemporary repertoire. In May 2011 she received the prestigious Singer Award at the Royal Philharmonic Society Awards, the highest recognition for live classical music in the UK.


The London Sinfonietta is one of the world’s leading contemporary music ensembles. Formed in 1968, the commitment to making new music has seen the orchestra commission over 400 works and premiere many hundreds more. Resident at Southbank Centre and Artistic Associate at Kings Place, with a busy touring schedule across the UK and abroad, the London Sinfonietta’s core eighteen Principal Players are some of the finest musicians in the world.


The BBC Symphony Orchestra has been at the heart of British musical life since it was founded in 1930. It provides the backbone of the BBC Proms, performing around a dozen concerts at the festival each year. The BBC SO has a strong commitment to 20th century and contemporary music. Its 2017–18 season includes Sakari Oramo’s Sibelius symphony series, Total Immersion composer days devoted to Esa-Pekka Salonen, Julian Anderson and Leonard Bernstein, a concert staging of Jake Heggie’s opera Dead Man Walking and an evening with American writer Armistead Maupin. It regularly performs with the BBC Symphony Chorus and together they won the 2015 Gramophone Best Choral Disc Award for their recording of Elgar’s The Dream of Gerontius.


One of the most influential composer-conductors of his generation, Oliver Knussen was born in Glasgow in 1952 and grew up near London (where his father was principal Double Bass of the London Symphony Orchestra), later moving to Suffolk where he lived for the remainder of his life. The recipient of many honours and awards, including the Nemmers Prize in 2006 and the Royal Philharmonic Society Conductor Award in 2009, he served as Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival (1983–98), Head of Contemporary Music at the Tanglewood Music Center (1986–93), Principal Guest Conductor of the Hague Residentie Orchestra (1993–97), Music Director of the London Sinfonietta (1998–2002), Artist-in-Association with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (2009–14) and with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (2006–18), and Richard Rodney Bennett Professor at the Royal Academy of Music (2014–18). He was appointed CBE in 1994 and received the Queen’s Medal for Music 2015. Together with Colin Matthews he founded the Composition and Performance courses at the Britten-Pears School in 1992. In recent years he was invited for residencies at the Royal Academy of Music, the Eastman School of Music, New England Conservatory, and the Library of Congress in Washington DC. His 60th birthday was celebrated with special events in Aldeburgh, Amsterdam, Birmingham, London and Tanglewood, and in 2016 his work was the subject of a retrospective Composer Festival given by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra. His recording of Carter’s Late Works (ODE 1296-2), released in August 2017, received BBC Music Magazine Special Jury Award and was nominated for Gramophone Awards in the Orchestral category.


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