James Weeks – World Premiere Reviews

Here at UYMP, we are delighted to announce that James Weeks has received fantastic reviews following the world premiere of his works Primo Libro and Libro di fiammelle e ombre.

Libro di fiammelle e ombre was premiered by the EXAUDI ensemble, conducted by James Weeks on the 1st April, 2017 at Wigmore Hall as part of the ensemble’s 50th anniversary celebrations. This work is a sequence of 12 very short madrigals using text’s from Arcadelt’s Primo Libro de’ Madrigali (1539). The title, ‘Book of little flames and shadows’, explores the ‘poetry of sound in the sound of poetry’ – the close union of text and music idealised by the early madrigal pioneers. Christopher Fox accounted that ‘there’s a restraint in Weeks' music that suggests an equivalence with Arcadelt – emotionally focussed, never extravagant – and yet these new madrigals know so much more. Arcadelt was at the beginning of something new, a genre that within a few decades would become the most explosively dramatic in European art music. Weeks somehow finds a way to acknowledge what has gone before and yet revoice it to reflect our uncertain times: the music flows yet lacks any conventional linear narrative; expressive possibilities are touched on – in particular, moments when individual voices speak whole phrases of text – then abandoned; finally it flickers into silence.’ Ultimately, the work and performance were summarised to have been a ‘considerable achievement.’

Primo Libro was then fully premiered by the Ekmeles ensemble on 7th October, 2017 in the Crypt at the Church of the Intercession in New York. ‘Weeks was inspired by the work of Nicolà Vincentino, a 16th-century composer who explored microtones far earlier than many listeners might expect, assuming that microtonal writing is a 20th-century innovation. In 1555, Vincentino wrote a book of madrigals, L’antica musica ridotta alla moderna prattica (“Ancient music adapted to modern practice”), and included works created using a 31-note octave… The compositional question Weeks posed: “Is it possible to to tune perfect major and minor triads on all 31 degrees of the scale?” He has answered that query triumphantly in eighteen miniatures (most are scarcely a minute long), using Italian texts from Arcadelt’s Primo Libro de’ Madrigali (1539), filled with phrases of love and desire.’

Full Reviews

Primo Libro

Libro di fiammelle e ombre

(26 Oct 2017)

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