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I have come to hope that a Rack Press pamphlet may be a tiny gift-box of unusually good poems – Alison Brackenbury, PN Review
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Friday, 14 June 2013

Songs from the Same Earth Triumph at Aldeburgh Festival

Sir Harrison Birtwistle's setting of David Harsent's Songs from the Same Earth (the text published yesterday by Rack Press) was premiered last night at the Aldeburgh Music Festival at Snape Maltings Concert Hall and received a rapturous reception from the audience.

Sir Harrison Birtwistle (l) and David Harsent (r)
on stage at the Peter Pears Recital Room, Snape Maltings
At a pre-concert talk in the Peter Pears Recital Room, introduced briefly by Rack Press publisher Nicholas Murray, David Harsent read the entire sequence before taking part in a discussion with Harrison Birtwistle chaired by Tom Service.  Harry (as he appears to be universally known) revealed that he is a great reader of poetry but confessed with his dry Lancastrian humour that: "Poetry has to be a suitable case for treatment; it's only any good to me if it can be set to music." David Harsent said that Harry had a "great sensitivity to the text" and "a fantastic sense of theatre" which was clear from the subsequent performance given by the outstanding tenor Mark Padmore.  Both composer and poet admitted that they tended to work intuitively, without a pre-existing plan, and all the ingenuity of interviewer Tom Service was required to get the two to explain how they worked together.  That they did do so was clear from the piece itself. With a fine intuitive sense of the urgencies of product placement Harry waved his Rack Press pamphlet of the poems around as he tried to explain how he came to write the concluding musical section.  We were too bashful to photograph this moment. The concert was recorded for transmission later this year on Radio 3.

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