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James Weeks

Hailed as one of the most inventive young composers and conductors out there by The Guardian, James Weeks enjoys a growing international reputation both for his own music and for his consummate performances of contemporary repertoire. Born in Blackburn in 1978, he read Music at Cambridge before completing a PhD in Composition at Southampton University, studying with Michael Finnissy. His music has been commissioned and performed by many leading performers including London Sinfonietta, Apartment House, Quatuor Bozzini, Alison Balsom, EXAUDI, Morgan/Dullea, Wandelweiser, New London Chamber Choir, Uroboros Ensemble, Endymion, Anton Lukoszevieze and Christopher Redgate. He has been performed at UK and European festivals and venues including City of London, Spitalfields and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festivals, Gaudeamus (Amsterdam), Quincena Musical (San Sebastian), de Bijloke (Ghent), Wandelweiser (Düsseldorf, Munich), Weimarer Frühjahrstage and Mafra (Portugal). His music is heard regularly on BBC Radio 3's Hear and Now, and he was a member of Bmic's New Voices scheme from 2005-10.

Since 2005 the main focus of his music has been on solo and small-ensemble works exploring elemental or primary musical materials and processes, either left bare or built up into polyphonic structures of considerable density. Major works include Schilderkonst (for mixed ensemble, 2003-4) Stacking, Weaving, Building, Joining (for any number of players, 2006), the South London Harmonies series (for various ensembles, 2008-11), Burnham Air (for oboe d'amore, 2008), Hototogisu (for children's choir, 2007), TIDE (for ensemble and electronics, 2007-10), Parnassus (for vocal and string sextets, 2008-9), Mala punica (for eight solo voices, 2008-9), and The Freedom of the Earth (for chorus and instruments, 2011).

As a conductor, he is best known for his work with the contemporary specialists EXAUDI, the vocal ensemble he founded with the soprano Juliet Fraser in 2002. With them he maintains a busy international touring schedule, collaborating regularly with the world's leading composers, new music soloists and ensembles, and has released six acclaimed CDs, of Finnissy, Fox, Lutyens and Skempton on Mode, NMC and Metier. The ensemble specialises in the most complex new music - performances of Ferneyhough, Dillon, Xenakis, Gervasoni, Birtwistle and Finnissy have won them worldwide praise - and experimental music, often presented alongside repertoire from the Renaissance or early baroque. He was Musical Director of the New London Chamber Choir and the Orlando Chamber Choir from 2007-2011. In great demand as a guest conductor, he has worked with London Sinfonietta, BBC Singers, L'Instant Donnè (Paris), Raschçr Saxophone Quartet, New Music Players, Endymion, IXION, I Fagiolini and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, with whom he recorded Howard Skempton's Chamber Concerto for NMC.

He is much in demand as a choral animateur and tutor, and regularly leads courses for Dartington International Summer School. He is also active as an organ recitalist, pianist and writer on contemporary music, and broadcasts on early and new music for BBC Radio 3. In 2006 he co-founded the ensemble Kürbis with the composer Claudia Molitor, dedicated to the performance of contemporary and experimental chamber music. The ensemble has performed in London (The Cutting Edge; Spitalfields Festival), Cambridge (Kettle's Yard), and at Soundwaves Brighton and recorded for Radio 3. In 2010 he was Artistic Associate of the Spitalfields Festival (London). He is currently a Composition Professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London.

Weeks, for my money, is one of the most inventive young composers and conductors out there: founder and director of the brilliant young vocal group EXAUDI, his own music is a vivid mix of the unpredictable and experimental, but there's always real refinement in his work, whether instrumental or vocal.

Tom Service, The Guardian

The highlight of the evening...an innovative, impressive work, composed by James Weeks with his biding interest in the bleak landscapes of the English coast in mind.

Tempo, on TIDE

Conveying a compositional rigour worthy of Ockeghem, Weeks builds a busy foliage (yet another nod to the flora imagery of the text) of canonical textures out of strikingly simple melodic gestures. Like the earlier man, Weeks directs these abstract procedures towards the expression of an emotional intensity that results both from the obvious pleasure that can be gained from the exercise of the discipline of musical grammar in itself, and from the poetical density that results from the careful shaping of that grammar into complex sonic events. And so it was the case here; the outwardly punctilious technique of composition gave way to fervency in procedure and affect.

Musicalcriticism.com, on Mala punica

Ravishing. In unfolding an extremely sparse series of rocking intervals between the two instruments it recalled Feldman but - and this seems like an odd thing to say about Feldman's music - with somehow less stodge.

Johnson's Rambler on Wie soll ich meine Seele halten



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Forthcoming performances

Thursday 3rd December 2015, 7.00pm
Milton Court Concert Hall, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London
'Surface, Depth and Colour' for 12 instruments
Guildhall New Music Ensemble, directed by James Weeks
Guildhall calendar - 'Surface, Depth and Colour'

[pdf files]Download .pdf version of James Weeks's catalogue