The Patience of Trees

Dobrinka Tabakova The Patience of Trees World premiere
Steve Reich New York Counterpoint
Paul Saggers Vulpes Vulpes World premiere
Julieta Szewach Todo Era Vuelo en Nuestra Tierra World premiere
Dobrinka Tabakova Frozen River Flows

The concert lasts approximately 70 minutes with no interval.

Manchester Camerata
Hugo Ticciati Solo Violin/Director & Curator
Dobrinka Tabakova Composer & Curator
Amanda Stoodley Design
Andy Purves Lighting Design


We have all sought our own ways to alleviate the deep personal challenges of the last 16 months – places, both real and virtual, where we could find positivity and hope amid the worry, isolation and loss of the pandemic. And for so many people, particularly those of us who live in the city, it was the natural world that offered us both comfort and consolation.

Dobrinka Tabakova’s inspiring violin concerto captures something of the wonder of the natural world, and of our rich and necessary connection to it. This new piece is at the centre of this musical journey into nature and the urban environment, and I’m grateful to Dobrinka for sharing it with us.

I’m delighted that this concert sees MIF teaming up once again with Manchester Camerata – and that Camerata has in turn rekindled its own partnership with Hugo Ticciati, the concert's soloist and director. One of our most thoughtful and generous musicians, Hugo has conceived the concert with Dobrinka, and his O/Modernt Composition Award is also responsible for the two other premieres on the programme: new pieces by Paul Saggers and Julieta Szewach.

Together with Dobrinka’s Frozen River Flows and Steve Reich’s New York Counterpoint, these works make up a moving and timely meditation on nature and the city – at a time when our connection to both, and to each other, has rarely felt more important.

John McGrath
Artistic Director & Chief Executive, MIF

Programme notes

The Patience of Trees (world premiere)
Dobrinka Tabakova

Earth – Water – Fire – Air

We have perhaps forgotten the need to concern ourselves with cultural and biological diversity; and the ages-old partnership between humans, trees and woods offers benefits that our forebears understood well but which we have forgotten. But… trees are patient. They will wait for us to come to our senses, to reignite our ancient partnership with them for our mutual survival.’ – Max Adams, The Wisdom of Trees

The concept of this work began when Hugo Ticciati first approached me to write a concerto for him while we were both artists in residence at the Davos Summer Festival in 2018. I began sketching more intensely, just as the pandemic forced global lockdowns. I was reading The Wisdom of Trees and Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees, as well as poetry that complemented the strong desire to connect even more deeply with nature as we were isolated from each other.

The structure of the work emerged first: the solemn, ever-present tree, enduring and thriving in the elements, represented in the four movements that are played without a break. ‘Earth’ begins with the theme of the tree, played by the solo violin, while the orchestra gently hums. This is followed by a solemn chorale in the orchestra, paced almost like a procession, with the marimba providing the pulse. The ‘Water’ movement is triggered by a fast figuration in the solo, above which the marimba has a droplet-like pulse, and the fast but flowing lines in the upper strings are in constant dialogue. ‘Fire’ is characterised by bold chords leaping from extremes of the string register, and the solo becomes the most virtuosic above these fluctuating chords. Finally, ‘Air’ brings back the chorale from ‘Earth’, and the music slowly settles and ‘evaporates’ into higher registers. The ‘tree’ theme is present in all four sections but remains fundamentally unchanged.

© Dobrinka Tabakova 2021

New York Counterpoint
Steve Reich

Fast – Slow – Fast

New York Counterpoint was commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation for clarinettist Richard Stolzman. It was composed during the summer of 1985. The duration is about 11 minutes. The piece is a continuation of the ideas found inVermont Counterpoint (1982), where as soloist plays against a pre-recorded tape of him- or herself. In New York Counterpoint, the soloist pre-records ten clarinet and bass clarinet parts and then plays a final 11th part live against the tape.

The compositional procedures include several that occur in my earlier music. The opening pulses ultimately come from the opening of Music for 18 Musicians (1976). The use of interlocking repeated melodic patterns played by multiples of the same instrument can be found in my earliest works, Piano Phase (for two pianos or two marimbas) and Violin Phase(for four violins), both from 1967. In the nature of the patterns, their combination harmonically, and in the faster rate of change, the piece reflects more recent works, particularly Sextet (1985).

New York Counterpoint is in three movements: fast, slow, fast, played one after the other without pause. The change of tempo is abrupt and in the simple relation of 1:2. The piece is in the meter 3/2 = 6/4 (=12/8). As is often the case when I write in this meter, there is an ambiguity between whether one hears measures of three groups of four quavers, or four groups of three quavers. In the last movement of New York Counterpoint, the bass clarinets function to accent first one and then the other of these possibilities while the upper clarinets essentially do not change. The effect, by change of accent, is to vary the perception of that which in fact is not changing.

© Steve Reich

Vulpes Vulpes (world premiere)
Paul Saggers

City Scavenger – Fox Cub Curiously Examines Half-Eaten Pack of Quavers – Red Coats vs Sabs

Vulpes Vulpes is the binomial name for the red fox. Inspired by the brief for the O/Mordent Composition Award 2021, my work depicts the challenges faced by the red fox in urban and rural environments.

  1. City Scavenger
    Red foxes have been exceedingly successful in inhabiting built-up environments. City-dwelling red foxes may have the potential to consistently grow larger than their rural counterparts as a result of abundant scraps of food from litter bins and bin bags. Although hunting foxes is banned in urban areas, many end up in traps to deter then from their urban home.
  2. Fox Cub Curiously Examines Half-Eaten Pack of Quavers
    Fox cubs tend to emerge in late April, when they start to eat solid food. They tend to play with items in their natural habitat – and in an urban location, this is often litter. Near a fox’s den, at dusk there will be plenty of activity from cubs noisily running around and playing. In the summer, urban cubs lie up during the day in rubbish piles.
  3. Red Coats vs Sabs
    In the United Kingdom, fox-hunting with hounds was legal until 2005. The sport is controversial, particularly in this country. Proponents of fox-hunting view it as an important part of rural culture, useful for reasons of conservation and pest control, while opponents argue that it is cruel and unnecessary. Hunters are typically mounted on horses wearing red hunting coats and are in control of a pack of hounds who flush out the foxes and kill them. Many hunts still take place illegally; however, animal rights groups often sabotage a hunt by exposing the hunters on social media in order to support a prosecution.

© Paul Saggers 2021

Todo Era Vuelo en Nuestra Tierra (world premiere)
Julieta Szewach

Todo Era Vuelo en Nuestra Tierra (‘Everything Was Flight on Our Land’) walks the nostalgia of mythical time (illo tempore), that of the lost paradise. It is, in turn, a reflection on the contradictions posed by our gregarious condition. Since time immemorial, the tension between the human and the polis has constituted in us an insurmountable wound. The city appears in all its duality: it saves us from self-absorption and sterility while, like a living organism, it imposes entropic forces that depersonalise us. That spiritual tear, irresolvable and constitutive of our human essence, runs through this work as a question – inwards and outwards.

© Julieta Szewach 2021

Frozen River Flows
Dobrinka Tabakova

Inspired by the beautiful phenomenon of a flowing river with a frozen ‘crust’, this piece is a short delicate meditation. The sinuous lines of the oboe are blurred with hazy vibraphone drones and crystalline Morse code from the crotales. Commissioned by new noise and originally scored for oboe and percussion, which is the arrangement being performed tonight, there are also arrangements for violin, accordion and double bass, and for two flutes, clarinet, violin and cello.

© Dobrinka Tabakova


Manchester Camerata

First violins Caroline Pether, Sophie Mather, Catherine Landen, Kana Kawashima, Siun Milne, Joy Becker
Second violins William Newell, Gemma Bass, Anthony Banks, Simmy Singh, Andra Vornicu
Violas Alistair Vennart, Lucy Nolan, Joseph Fisher, Kim Becker
Cellos Hannah Roberts, Graham Morris, George Hoult, Lucy Arch
Double basses Roberto Carrillo-Garcia, Siret Lust
Clarinet (New York Counterpoint) Fiona Cross
Oboe (Frozen River Flows) Rachael Clegg
Percussion Janet Fulton, Edward Cervenka

For Manchester International Festival

John McGrath Artistic Director & Chief Executive
Tracey Low Executive Producer
Shanaz Gulzar Producer
Carole Keating Associate Producer
Jack Thompson Technical Director

For Manchester Camerata

Bob Riley Chief Executive
James Thomas Head of Artistic Development & Programming
Jo Watson Orchestra Personnel Manager
Becky Parnell Creative Producer (collaborative role with Creative Manchester)
Amy Ewan Concert & Orchestra Manager

Commissioning credits

The Patience of Trees is commissioned by Manchester International Festival, O/Modernt, Orquestra de Câmara de Cascais e Oeiras and Musik i Dalarna. Produced by Manchester International Festival. Vulpes Vulpes is supported by O/Modernt and Manchester International Festival.

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