A 30-minute orchestral commission from the Cheltenham Festival, this work was premiered on 12 July 2014 in Cheltenham Town Hall. The Symphony is a collaboration between Richard Blackford and the world-renowned pioneer of wild soundscape recording and author Bernie Krause. Martyn Brabbins conducted the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. The premiere was broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. The work was subsequently performed by The London Schools Symphony Orchestra at the Aberystwyth Festival on 2 August and also performed in Birmingham Town Hall on 4 August, conducted by the composer.
To find out more please go to the official website: www.thegreatanimalorchestrasymphony.com
"I have never heard anything quite like this symphony, but, then, there has never been anything quite like this symphony. . . . Even more extraordinary than the concept itself is the degree to which this blending of nature and humans works; and, simply by working, it makes it point. At its best, music always speaks more eloquently than words can. This music speaks with great eloquence, authority and immediacy, but not only on behalf of human beings: it speaks also for the natural world, casting light upon humanity’s often less than felicitous relationship with our fellow creatures."
Michael McManus, Gramophone
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"First performances of new pieces were greeted by highly enthusiastic, full houses in the vibrant last weekend of Cheltenham's music festival. Drawing from the remarkable wildlife and soundscape recordings of environmentalist Bernie Krause, Richard Blackford's The Great Animal Orchestra, a five-movement "bio-symphony" for orchestra, was premiered at the Town Hall by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Martyn Brabbins. The sounds of the creatures – from a pack of wolves howling to insects to the musician wren – were arresting, galvanising us into listening anew to living soundscapes from around the world."
"This is a work that has attracted no small amount of attention thanks to its unique concept. Inspired by the book of the same name by soundscape recordist Bernie Krause, its five short movements incorporate into a colourful orchestral score recordings of wildlife made by Krause on
travels around the world, from Borneo to the Arctic...the piece as a whole hung together very well,
and the wildlife recordings never sounded contrived. And, again, it went down very well with the audience."
"The result is stunning. Each of the five movements begins with a tape of the natural soundscape of a particular region or continent after which the orchestra takes over. Gibbons and the humpback whale feature in the first movement, while the scherzo is based on a chorus of Pacific tree frogs and a woodpecker. With its infectious percussion and jazz rhythms this section is both accessible and appealing. The march and charge of a herd of African elements brought moments of high drama to the evening, one of the stars of which was the Musician Wren from Central America whose intricate 44 note melody formed the basis of the concluding theme and variations. The ever-reliable Martyn Brabbins steered the excellent BBC National Orchestra of Wales through Blackford's ingenious score with great aplomb."
"The Great Animal Orchestra was premiered this summer at the Cheltenham Festival and this recording was made a few days later. In his new, exotic work, Richard Blackford introduces the sounds of wildlife, as collected and recorded by Bernie Krause, to begin each movement. You may recall that Blackford employed a similar ploy in his cantata Voices of Exile by having the actuality of the dispossessed woven into the fabric of the work. The melange of the orchestra with sounds from the animal kingdom works in favour of The Great Animal orchestra where the two co-exist without hiatus…Blackford is a dab hand with his orchestral palette. His scoring is colourful and he fashions a suite in symphonic outline with an internal structure to each movement. The Elegy comes from the heart, while the movement to the American Wren is a joyous paean to nature, with the pentatonic scale running through it to embrace the wide outdoors."
Adrian Edwards, Gramophone