A new work for soprano and string quartet

by Simon Collings

I have just commissioned a young composer, Laura Jurd, to write a piece for soprano and string quartet, setting a text I wrote a few years ago. I was introduced to Laura by a member of the Ligeti Quartet, for whom she is writing the piece. This talented ensemble champions music of the last 100 years, including new work. I heard them give a magical performance of Gubaidulina, John Adams and Ligeti in Oxford in early 2012 and wrote about it in the Oxford Times.

Mandhira de Saram, the quartet’s lead violinist, wrote to thank me for the review. I had been wondering what to do with a poem I had written and liked and it occurred to me that I could have it set to music. I asked Mandhira if the Ligeti Quartet would be interested in a commission and if so who we might approach. Schoenberg wrote the first ever work for soprano and string quartet, which was also his first atonal piece. It’s an obvious work for the Ligeti Quartet to have in its repertoire. A contemporary piece for the same combination of performers would make an interesting foil. Mandhira said she loved the idea.

Val Welbanks, the cellist in the Ligeti Quartet, introduced me to Laura. I listened to samples of music on SoundCloud and to her album Landing Ground on which the Ligeti Quartet perform. Laura is a highly regarded young jazz trumpeter and was nominated for a British ComposerAward in 2012. She is only 21. The album reminds me of Charlie Haden: gentle, zany and inventive. I could see Laura’s style working well with my text. She composes in both ‘classical’ and ‘jazz’ styles. The piece I have commissioned will take a ‘classical’ approach.

The work won’t be ready until later in the year as we have to wait for space in the Ligeti Quartet’s busy rehearsal schedule. But you can hear Laura at the Spice of Life in Soho on 21 March, playing with Simon Roth’s band Stories.

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