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Judith Weir

Publisher: Chester Music

Really? (2002)
Chester Music Ltd
Solo Voice(s) and up to 6 players
Year Composed
9 Minutes

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Programme Note
Judith Weir Really? (2002)
1.Incidents in Traffic (Johann Peter Hebel)
2.The Expansion of Porridge (Brothers Grimm)
3.What is Eternity ? (Brothers Grimm)

These three musical presentations of stories were written to illustrate my thoughts about the many ways in which music helps, and hinders, storytelling. The three short settings use a wide variety of vocal styles. The first story is spoken throughout; the second includes Sprechstimme (i.e. melodically heightened speech) and operatic declamation; the final piece is entirely sung. The scoring is for soprano, clarinet, viola and, in the third movement only, harp.

The stories are roughly contemporaneous. Hebel, a very great writer to those who know him (his admirers have included Tolstoy, Kafka and Wittgenstein), devised nearly all his work for publication in an almanac.
I have added my own titles for the three pieces and slightly adapted the two Brothers Grimm stories. The Hebel text is translated by John Hibberd.

1. Incidents in Traffic: A man and his son set out for a ride on a donkey, and receive a great deal of unsolicited advice from passers-by, which does not ultimately prove to be helpful.

2.The Expansion of Porridge: A girl is handed a magic cooking pot, but her mother only half-understands its use, with almost disastrous consequences.

3.What is Eternity ?: A king asks a shepherd boy three difficult questions about the nature of the universe, which he answers brilliantly.

  • 13 DEC 2011
    Concert Hall, Cardiff School of Music
    Cardiff University Contemporary Music Group
    Robert Fokkens, conductor
  • 07 MAY 2009
    The Cornerstone, Hope at Everton, Liverpool
    Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Ensemble 10:10
    Clark Rundell, conductor
  • 07 JUN 2007
    Second Glance Festival
    Bolivar Hall, Venezuelan Embassy, London
    The Chamber Music Company
    Frances Lynch, soprano; Mark Troop, conductor
  • 14 JUN 2006
    Linbury at Royal Opera House
    The Opera Group
    Owen Gilhooly, baritone; Heather Shipp, mezzo-soprano; Claire Wild, soprano; Mark Wilde, tenor; Patrick Bailey, conductor

    Other Dates:
    15,17 June - Linbury at Royal Opera House
    18 June - Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield
    30 June - Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester
    2 July - Cheltenham Festival
    8 July - Oxford Playhouse
    29 July - Crescent Theatre, Birmingham
  • 04 SEP 2005
    Vale of Glamorgan Festival 2005
    St Donats Arts Centre, Glamorgan
  • 19 AUG 2003
    Three Choirs Festival 2003
    Baptist Church, Hereford
    Sally Bradshaw, soprano / Lucy Wakeford, harp / Bridget Carey, viola / Kate Romano, clarinet
  • 07 NOV 2002
    Really? London Premiere
    BMIC Cutting Edge
    The Warehouse, London
    Andrew Zolinsky, piano
  • 15 AUG 2002
    Really? World Premiere
    Cambridge Summer Music
    Emmanuel United Reform Church, Cambridge, UK
    Okeanos: Kate Romano, clarinet / Bridget Carey, viola / Lucy Wakeford, harp
    Sally Bradshaw, soprano

Weir's brilliance at musical narrative is enhanced in a miniature story-cycle in the first half, Really?, in which she wrings a world of imagery from the smallest of musical ideas, like a viola solo or a harp chord.
Tom Service, The Guardian,6/16/2006
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