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Composed: 2015-2017

Orchestration: alto flute, oboe (= English horn), clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, 2 horns, trumpet, trombone, percussion (bass drum, claves, cymbals, glockenspiel, hyoshigi, small Japanese drum, maraca, marimba, mokusho, tam-tam, temple blocks, triangle,
2 whips), piano (= celesta), harp, strings, solo flute, and solo soprano

About this Piece

O Hototogisu! was first performed June 23, 2017, at the Aldeburgh Festival, by the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, with soprano Claire Booth, flutist Marie-Christine Zupancic, and the composer conducting.

This fragment is part of a larger work-in-progress concerning the Hototogisu (or Lesser Cuckoo), a bird widely invoked in Japanese haiku poetry of the 17th-19th centuries. The poet listens for its arrival from the mountains both as a harbinger of summer and a voice from the land of the dead.

I have assembled the text by paraphrasing many sources, and like a tourist have appropriated some instrumental signals from the music of Japanese theater (particularly Kabuki), though I have tried to do both in a spirit of respect.

This project is conceived as a sort of double concerto for Claire Booth, Marie-Christine Zupancic, and the BCMG, and is dedicated in affectionate gratitude to Jackie and Stephen Newbould, who last year retired from the helm of this wonderful ensemble. — Oliver Knussen © 2017