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Emotional contours

Ian Wilson,
featured composer at the
2005 Presteigne Festival,


From 25 to 30 August 2005, Ian Wilson will be the featured composer at the Presteigne Festival of Music and the Arts (Gwyl Llanandras). The festival includes six of Wilson's pieces, three major pieces and three smaller ones, spanning the years 1992 to 2001; in effect a mini-retrospective of Wilson's work. Wilson describes his piano trio -- The Seven Last Words [listen], his first quartet -- Winter's Edge, and In fretta, in vento (his 6th quartet in a version for string orchestra) as the major works in the festival programme. He is particularly looking forward to the new, string orchestra version of In fretta, in vento, a piece which he describes as 'very poignant'.

The three smaller works are a duo for cello and piano, Six Days in Jericho, a duo for alto flute and piano, Spilliaert's Beach, and a piano solo, A Haunted Heart. Though smaller pieces, Wilson regards them as a nice selection of pieces; 'pieces I'll always be happy to own up to -- something like Six Days at Jericho wouldn't exactly be the most performed piece in my catalogue, but it's built around a very simple, clear concept that gives the music a real strength; similarly, Spilliaert's Beach is based on just one idea, but it's that single-mindedness which makes the piece work so well'.

Wilson, described by Gramophone as 'a composer of imaginative resource and a sure formal sense', was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1964. As a child he learned violin, piano and guitar; by the age of 17 he had formed a band and was writing songs for them. He was introduced to 'serious' music whilst studying music at the University of Ulster. Finding that he enjoyed what he describes as 'pastiche composition' he went on to take the option of doing free composition in his final year.

Ian Wilson. Photo © Eugene Langan
Ian Wilson. Photo © Eugene Langan

Listening to a Bartók Sonata for solo violin was evidently an important turning point musically and he cites Feldmann and Shostakovitch as being important to him, 'Feldman, because of his wonderful ear for colour and timbre, and Shostakovitch, for the expressive power of his music. I suppose I try and aim for a balance of those qualities in my own music.' As director of the Sligo New Music Festival, he continues to keep abreast of new music developments in Europe.

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Copyright © 14 August 2005 Robert Hugill, London UK


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