James McVinnie | Live from Concert Hall 'Latvija' in Ventspils

On Sunday, December 6, at 19:00 a special event is expected to take place at the concert hall “Latvija” in Ventspils – the outstanding British organist James McVinnie will perform a concert without spectators, premiering the compositions from the “Birth Cycle” created by the composer Nico Muhly especially for this concert.

The concert, which was originally intended to be “traditional”, although for a limited audience, will be available live from Ventspils to everyone.

The common prehistory with Nico Muhly and James McVinnie for Ventspils goes back more than ten years. At that time, in the spring of 2010, Nico Muhly visited Latvia for the first and so far the only time together with his colleagues Ben Frost, Valgeir Sigurðsson and Sam Amidon at the theatre house “Jūras vārti”. At the time, he revealed himself to many local listeners as a composer and brilliant pianist. Later, in 2016, James McVinney, while performing in Ventspils, introduced the audience for the first time to organ music created for him by Nico Muhly, which was included in the album “Cycles” released in 2013. A few months ago, at the end of August, N. Muhly’s opuses for the organ were interpreted by Aigars Reinis with Guntars Freibergs (marimba) and Pēteris Trasuns (viola) within the framework of LNSO festival “Summer House”. Now the dice are falling so that on December 6 James McVinney returns to Ventspils, as well as Nico Muhly’s organ music, the concert will be broadcast live from the concert hall without spectators, but compositions from “Birth Cycle”, created by Nico especially for this concert and James, will experience the world premiere!

““Birth Cycle” is a collection of compositions for organ, based on the songs used in the liturgy from Advent to Candlemas Day. Although the original singing is played at the end of each piece, it is based on the passage of this song – sometimes clearly readable, sometimes hidden, woven into a larger set of notes, and sometimes interpreted only in abstract style. For example, “Reges Tharsis” begins by repeating the notes used in the original song several times, but over time, this fantasy floats into technical waters, where one note “breaks” between two hands, which are playing on two keyboards. “Ecce Nomen Domini” is a fantasy about the amazing and dramatic call or apostrophe “Eia!” in the original song. Its decline becomes the main motif of the whole piece,” says Nico Muhly of his current interest in creating organ music.

James McVinney is an internationally known and recognized organist both as a solo artist and a regular participant in various notable new music projects. His musical and human openness has allowed his creative paths to intersect with a number of contemporary composers, producers and performers. Not only Nico Muhly, but also Tom Jenkinson or “Squarepusher”, band “Arcade Fire” participant Richard Reed Parry, David Lang, Bryce Dessner from band “The National” and others have created compositions especially for McVinney. Sufjan Stevens as well whose composition “The Year of the Lord” J. McVinney has included in Ventspils concert program.

From 2008 to 2011 and after studying music at the University of Cambridge, James McVinney was an assistant organist at Westminster Abbey, playing music both in daily moments and when leading the Abbey choir. The musician experienced his first solo concert at the age of 26, performing at the Salzburg Festival with the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra conducted by Ivor Bolton. Since then, participation in countless choir and vocal music recording sessions and European festival programs has been (until the recent events in the world) James' everyday life. Since his previous visit to Ventspils, James McVinney has participated in Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 12 “Lodger” premieres with Los Angeles philharmonics and “London Contemporary Orchestra”, performed Nico Muhly’s organ concert with the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, as well as collaborated with the electronic music duo “Darkstar”.

“I keep thinking about what are the brightest opuses for the organ. I'm trying to encourage the creation of new music. It is necessary to create new pieces that could stand alongside the most significant canonized compositions,” once James McVinney said in an interview to Jegors Jerehomovics, admitting that he still considers Johann Sebastian Bach the greatest composer of all time. Alongside Nico Muhly’s “Birth Cycle” premiere and the mentioned Sufjan Stevens’s composition, opuses for the organ by Johann Sebastian Bach, Marcel Dupré and Ferenc Liszt will be heard in Ventspils.

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