One of Britain’s fastest rising composers, Michael Stimpson has been a resident in Barga Vecchia for some time now and has appeared on this site many times over the past decade (all those articles can be seen here)
He has just released a new double CD of his latest composition “Age of Wonders” a voyage in music which was written to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin.
Now masterfully recorded by the Philharmonia Orchestra, the full evolution from violin and piano, through string quartet, string orchestra, and to complete as a work for full orchestra can be heard in its entirety under the baton of conductor Stuart Stratford.
AGE OF WONDERS – MAYA IWABUCHI I TOM POSTER – PHILHARMONIA ORCHESTRA I STUART STRATFORD
Violinist Maya Iwabuchi and pianist Tom Poster bring to life Darwin’s early life in The Man Who Walked With Henslow, while Maya, Fiona Cornall, Nicholas Buttiman, and Karen Stephenson of the Philharmonia Orchestra expertly perform the string quartet, The Beagle. The ‘Englishness’ of Darwin’s home, Down House is expressed in the work for string orchestra, An Entangled Bank, named after the famous quotation by Charles Darwin. Transmutations, for full orchestra, finally brings together the evolving threads, motifs, patterns, and mutations into four orchestral variations, closing Age of Wonders with a reflection of the opening work for violin and piano.
The music is added to on the second CD by the inspirational readings of Darwin by the late Robert Tear, Ruth Padel reading some of her poems also written for the Darwin anniversary, other interviews, and even recordings of Darwin’s finches used in the music.
The London-born and Wiltshire-resident composer Michael Stimpson has an unusual and in many ways inspiring biography. He initially studied Zoology and Botany whilst developing a high level of skill as a guitarist. In his mid-twenties he suffered a catastrophic illness which left him registered blind and unable to play the guitar to his erstwhile standard. Eventually, between 1993 and 1997, he undertook postgraduate studies in composition at the University of Southampton; so, presumably, only in his late forties did he come to embrace composition as his primary occupation.
The works of Michael Stimpson have been performed and commissioned by some of the UK’s most distinguished artists including the English Chamber Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Allegri and Maggini String Quartets, Bristol Bach Choir, Roderick Williams, Paul Agnew, David Campbell, Philippe Graffin, and Sioned Williams. A number of the UK’s nest venues have featured performances of his work including Wigmore Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room, and Cadogan Hall, as well as a variety of UK festivals. International recognition has prompted performances in Australia, Europe, Iran and the USA, with an upcoming premiere of his third string quartet in Italy in 2018.
Michael’s works are varied in their subject matter, the stimulus often from contemporary events, favourite authors and poets.
String Quartet No. 1 (Robben Island) re ected the breakdown of apartheid; The Stars Have Withdrawn Their Shining (harp), the life of John Ruskin; The Angry Garden (choir and orchestra) explored the issue of global warming; and A Walk Into War (tenor and piano quintet) was based on the writing of Laurie Lee.
His major work to mark the 60th anniversary of the end of World War 2, Clouds of War (choir and orchestra) was presented at Cadogan Hall in the presence of HRH Prince Michael of Kent. This was followed by a four-stage work, Age of Wonders, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. Beginning as a piece for violin and piano, it evolved through string quartet and string orchestra to a work for full orchestra, commissioned by the Darwin Symphony Orchestra in Australia. Michael went on to write the opera, Jesse Owens, a work in four Acts for soli, chorus and full orchestra based on the life of the iconic US athlete.