Symphony by composer Raymond Yiu – BBC Proms

Raymond Yiu Portrait by Malcolm Crowthers
Raymond Yiu Portrait by Malcolm Crowthers

As part of this year’s BBC Proms season, BBC Radio 3 has commissioned Symphony by contemporary composer Raymond Yiu. It will be performed by renowned counter-tenor Andrew Watts along with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

This five-movement meditation on memories, love and loss is set to texts close to Raymond’s heart. The work was inspired by an ode by Basil Bunting and set to texts by Walt Whitman, Thomas Gunn, John Donne and his own translations of Constantine Cavafy from the Greek.

The eclectic score of Symphony has diverse musical influences. These range from Scarlatti’s sonata (Kk87) – a work emotionally associated with the suicide of a close friend of Raymond to 1970s disco music, particularly notable in the fourth movement. This evokes the overlapping timelines of disco’s heyday and the spread of HIV/AIDS in this period. The complex feeling of anxiety, fear and desire are captured, serving as a remembrance for the victims of the epidemic as well as a reminder of the on-going challenges posed.

Yiu is an incredibly talented composer. Whilst he is primarily self-taught, he later went onto undertake doctoral research at Guildhall School of Music & Drama (2009-13) under the auspice of Julian Anderson.

He was the winner in the chamber category of BASCA British Composer Awards in 2010 with Northwest Wind and was also nominated for the award in 2004 (Beyond the Glass), 2012 (Les Etoiles au Front) and 2013 (The London Citizen Exceedingly Injured). He was also commissioned by LSO Discovery to compose Maomao Yü for Lang Lang and a quartet of Chinese string instruments in 2009 – a work which was premiered during the Chinese pianist’s residency with the LSO in April 2009, under the baton of the composer.

Tickets are still available for the world premiere performance of Symphony on 25th August 2015 at 18:30 on the BBC Proms website.

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