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Lavish Praise for Weeks at Spitalfields from the Guardian and the Times

The June 5th concert at Christ Church, Spitalfields, of music by UYMP composer James Weeks has received glowing reviews from The Guardian's George Hall and from Paul Driver of The Sunday Times.

Describing the Exaudi/Weeks/Hortus Ensemble combination as 'intricate, subtle and sonically ravishing', Hall praises the performances for bringing 'extraordinary light and colour' to the poetry of the Song of Songs. Mala Punica, eight canonic motets, was performed by Weeks' choir Exaudi (which he co-founded with Juliet Fraser) and conducted by Weeks. Weeks wrote Mala Punica in 2009 but has since added to the piece and divided it with instrumental movements for flute and string trios, entitled Walled Garden I, II and III. The Hortus Ensemble premiered this new work. Hall writes: 'Despite the rigour and discipline suggested by the work's complex use of canon - which gives the writing a consistent firmness and integrity - the overall impression is of a sensuousness maximally enriched both in its harmony and its choral fabric. This certainly befits poetry that dwells above all on the erotic appeal of the beloved, and the attendant delights of perfumes and spices, figs and vineyards. The thoroughgoing nature of the canonic writing, meanwhile, produces textures like clouds of sound shot through with harmonic light and colour.'

Paul Driver writes in The Sunday Times of 14th June: 'The canonic writing explored by all eight choral movements reaches a zenith of complexity here: a truly thrilling excursion. Weeks's modal idiom, neither tonally regressive nor rebarbatively dissonant, seems at once timeless, personal and innovative, and the whole undertaking a triumph of audacity and originality: an enclosed garden of 21st-century art.'

Interviewed by Spitalfields Music, Weeks says of his Walled Garden pieces: 'I wanted to give them a context, like a landscape or a field for them to bloom in, so I started from the image of the medieval hortus conclusus that appears at the centre of the cycle, and created these new instrumental pieces as a musical 'enclosed garden' seen at different times of day. The idea is that each piece is a space that the players wander in: even though the space is highly constructed the paths they take through it are not, so it should have a looser feel to it than the vocal pieces - each one is a more-or-less static field of sounds.'

Weeks also provides fascinating reflections on his recent works and on Walled Garden in The Sampler Blog: 'The relationship of our inner and outer worlds, the porous and unstable membrane between the two, fascinates me and motivates much of my recent work. The experimentalist tenet to mesh art with life is an infinitely rich, subtle, often perplexing task. Our lives consist of a number of interlocking spaces - physical, social, intellectual, imaginative, political, sexual - that we construct for ourselves to inhabit, exploring and reshaping them as we need. Works of art, too, might be viewed as constructed spaces, to be shared with those who encounter or realise them - different from, but informed by and interlocking with, the other spaces of our lives.'

To see the full Guardian review, please access this link: