01 Nov 2011

This content is tagged as Music .


New Zealand composer scores a commission from internationally acclaimed violinist   Hilary Hahn

Internationally acclaimed violinist Hilary Hahn has commissioned Gillian Whitehead, along with 25 international composers, to write a short piece for violin and piano as part of her In 27 Pieces: The Hilary Hahn Encores. The 27th piece will be selected from an online commissioning opportunity open to all interested composers.

Gillian was surprised to get an email from Hahn earlier in the year, asking whether she could phone her to discuss a commission!  “We had a long chat, and Hilary even extended the deadline for me. I still had to write the piece in 10 days though", explains Gillian. The result was Torua, and Gillian recently received an email saying that Hilary would be programming the work in her current concert tour and 2011-12 recital programme.

Gillian is in very good company - the 25 other commissioned composers include Krzysztof Penderecki, Edgar Meyer, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Lera Auerbach, Christos Hatzis, Jennifer Higdon, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh, Richard Barrett, Mason Bates, Tina Davidson, David Del Tredici, Avner Dorman, Søren Nils Eichberg, James Newton Howard, Bun-Ching Lam, David Lang, Paul Moravec, Nico Muhly, Michiru Oshima, Max Richter, Somei Satoh, Elliott Sharp, Valentin Silvestrov, Mark-Anthony Turnage, and Du Yun.

Hahn is playing 13 of the encores, including Gillian’s Torua, in her 2011-2012 concert season, and has just premiered them in a ten-centre US recital tour.

Of the Chicago concert, reviewer Lawrence A Johnson wrote:  “Gillian Whitehead’s Torua mixes songful phrases with artful trilling and a withdrawn melancholy, unsurprising since it was written by the New Zealand composer in the aftermath of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake.”

Gillian goes on to explain in her programme note: “That event shaped the piece, but probably in ways that only I would recognize – it’s certainly not in any way descriptive of an earthquake, but more of a meditation. As I wrote, a bellbird in my garden sang repeatedly a haunting phrase, which I incorporated – it occurs initially in the second phrase.  The title has several meanings, all of them apposite to the piece. It can signify a change in wind or current, it is the name of a weaving pattern (as music is woven) and in its third meaning of ‘two-fold’ or ‘double thickness’, suggests the idea of a duet.

Once a month, over the next two years, Hilary will post interviews with the composers on her Youtube channel.  Although Gillian was asked to be one of the first interviewees, a suitable time is yet to be found.  We will post a link to this interview when it becomes available.

Read more about the project here: