Guto Pryderi Puw is one of the most exciting composers working in Wales today and was the first Resident Composer to be appointed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in 2006-10. The present disc is therefore the culmination and vibrant legacy of that association and audible proof of the inestimable benefits of such a close working partnership. Guto was born in 1971 and grew up at Parc, Y Bala, in North Wales and comes from a well-known musical family steeped in the traditional Welsh arts of penillion singing and of choral ensemble performance within the indigenous folk tradition. He read Muisc at Bangor University where his composition teachers included John Pickard, Andrew Lewis and Pwyll ap Sio?n. He was awarded a PhD in composition in 2002 and in 2004 was appointed a Lecturer in the School of Music at Bangor. He is also Artistic Director of the Bangor New Music Festival, which he founded in 2000.
In 1995 Guto won the Composer’s Medal at the National Eisteddfod of Wales for his Fantasia II for harp, causing a controversy rare in the Medal’s brief history when the work’s use of extended performing techniques within the context of an uncompromisingly advanced musical language became very evident in Elinor Bennett’s vivid performance as part of the Ceremony. He won the medal again two years later with Mecanwaith (‘Mechanism’) for string quartet (but sadly without a performance on stage this time!). Such successes led to commissions and performances at such festivals as Bath, Huddersfield, State of the Nation, North Wales, Vale of Glamorgan and UKwithNY in New York by artists and ensembles such as the London Sinfonietta and the Sinfonietta Voices, Duke Quartet, Tubalate?, Icarus Ensemble, pianist Ian Pace, harpist Hugh Webb and the baritone Jeremy Huw Williams.
Guto has pursued a distinctive compositional path which might seem at first hearing to stray quite a long way from any established Welsh tradition. His language has more in common say with the largely atonal chromaticism of Alun Hoddinott than the more broadly tonal idioms of Grace Williams and William Mathias or the minimalistic neo-modality of John Metcalf. This doesn’t however imply a deliberate rejection of his native musical roots in that he has long cultivated a meticulously detailed yet flexible technique and allied himself to wide-ranging stylistic influences, of which Polish master Witold Lutos?awski’s was initially the most prominent but which have also embraced an interesting range of post-modernist ideas. With the gradual broadening of his palette to include the large-scale orchestral music featured on this disc his language has also widened subtly to encompass greater textural freedom and a more colourful sense of an extended tonality alongside a strong sense of implied drama. At the same time this process has enabled his inherent Welshness to emerge quite naturally – not only in terms of the extra-musical subject matter he often chooses but also within the musical language itself, which becomes more personal and powerfully projected as it steadily develops and matures. In 2009 he won a major Creative Wales Award from the Arts Council of Wales to concentrate on developing his music theatre and operatic writing in conjunction with Music Theatre Wales. The first fruit of this project is a chamber opera based on Gwenlyn Parry’s great play Y Tw?r (The Tower) with a libretto by Gwyneth Glyn. Amongst other projects Guto is also planning a new violin concerto for the contemporary specialist Madeleine Mitchell.
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