Daniel Kidane

Composer

"To Daniel Kidane's quietly impressive new Metamorphosis he brought stature, concentration and a beguiling range of sonorities."

Andrew Clark, Financial Times

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Daniel Kidane‘s music has been performed extensively across the UK and abroad as well as being broadcast on BBC Radio 3, described by the Financial Times as ‘quietly impressive’ and by The Times as ‘tautly constructed’ and ’vibrantly imagined’.

Daniel began his musical education at the age of eight when he started playing the violin. He first received composition lessons at the Royal College of Music Junior Department and then went on to study privately in St Petersburg, receiving lessons in composition from Sergey Slonimsky. He completed his undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the RNCM under the tutelage of Gary Carpenter and David Horne.

Highlights include orchestral works Woke, which was premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and chief conductor Sakari Oramo at the Last Night of the Proms in September 2019, and Zulu by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra; a new work for the CBSO Youth Orchestra, which is inspired by Grime music; a chamber work for the Cheltenham Festival which draws inspiration from Jungle music and a new type of vernacular; a song cycle commissioned by Leeds Lieder and inspired by the poetry of Ben Okri; and a new piece entitled Dream Song for the baritone Roderick Williams and the Chineke! Orchestra which was played at the reopening of the Queen Elizabeth Hall in April 2018.

Recent works premiered during the Covid-19 lockdowns include The Song Thrush and the Mountain Ash for Huddersfield Choral Society with text by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, Dappled Light for violinists Maxine Kwok and Julian Gil Rodriguez for the London Symphony Orchestra's Summer Shorts series; Christus factus est for Merton College Choir recorded for Delphian; and Be Still for the Manchester Camerata, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and received further international premieres by the San Francisco Symphony, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris. His most recent work Revel, inspired by Manchester Carnival, was commissioned by the BBC Proms for the Kanneh-Mason family, and premiered in August 2021.

Recent commissions for Michala Petri (recorder) and Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord) were released on CD and premiered in the UK at Wigmore Hall. Works for members of the London Symphony Orchestra, which have focused on multiculturalism, and an orchestral work for the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, motivated by the eclectic musical nightlife in Manchester, also received critical acclaim.

Works premiered during the Covid-19 lockdowns include The Song Thrush and the Mountain Ash for Huddersfield Choral Society with text by Poet Laureate Simon Armitage; Dappled Light for violinists Maxine Kwok and Julian Gil Rodriguez for the London Symphony Orchestra's Summer Shorts series; Christus factus est for Merton College Choir recorded for Delphian; and Be Still for the Manchester Camerata, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and received further international premieres by the San Francisco Symphony, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris. One of his most recent works Revel, inspired by Manchester Carnival was commissioned by the BBC Proms for the Kanneh-Mason family and premiered in August 2021.

This season’s highlights include the world premiere of Sun Poem, a co-commission by the London Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony, performed by the LSO and Sir Simon Rattle at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2022, followed by performances at Musikfest Berlin, Lucerne Festival and Grafenegg Festival. The San Francisco premiere as well as further performances of Sun Poem will take place in October 2022 at Mondavi Center for Performing Arts and Davies Symphony Hall given by the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen.


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Sun Poem performed by the LSO and Sir Simon Rattle

The Barbican, Sunday 11 September 2022, 7PM

Inspired by two emotional family milestones (the death of Kidane’s father and the arrival of his first child), Sun Poem tickled the ears right from its first tentative trumpet notes, quickly building in momentum and cohesion until the whole orchestra, glinting and frenetic, raced onwards, glued together by tiny phrases with contours resembling bell chimes. (...) Sun Poem was taut, terrific and excellently played.

★★★★ Mark Allan, The Times

Rattle has made a point, each season, of including a brand new work in his opening concert, too, and here it was Daniel Kidane's Sun Poem. Kidane describes it as a lullaby for his infant son; it’s certainly vividly coloured, with spiky brass writing that sometimes recalls Janáček; it’s an effective opener (...).

★★★★★ Andrew Clements, The Guardian

Sun Poem (world premiere), performed by the LSO and Sir Simon Rattle

Edinburgh International Festival, The Usher Hall, 18 August 2022

Under Rattle's direction, the LSO did full justice to British composer Kidane's marvellous new piece Sun Poem, and plenty more besides.

The piece takes its cue and its title from Sun Poem by the Barbadian writer Kamau Braithwaite. This explores ideas of heritage and patrilineal descent, themes that resonated deeply with Kidane, who’s just become a father himself. Rather than expressing these ideas through a rosy nostalgia, Kidane found vivid and very precisely judged musical metaphors for them.

(...) his musical passions from Russian chant to Messiaen have been absorbed into a distinctive musical language.

A single muted trumpet note sounded hesitantly, which gave birth to another note in the flutes, then another in the brass. Suddenly the whole orchestra seemed to be capering madly, suggesting an enticing future ahead of the new-born. This soon gave way to more reflective music, with glowing tendrils of clarinet and marimba, suggesting the awareness of the past that helps us make sense of the future. That idea might sound ponderous in words, but it wasn’t at all so when expressed in this beautifully made, engaging piece.

Ivan Hewitt, The Daily Telegraph ★★★★★

We also had the premiere of Daniel Kidane’s Sun Poem, a piece he wrote about the journey of fatherhood. The music moves from the uneasy nervous energy of its opening through to something warmer and more beautiful, perhaps reflecting the emotions that a new father feels. Over ten minutes Kidane uses his orchestral canvas with great skill, the tintinnabulating winds and percussion twinkling against beautifully smooth string writing.

Simon Thompson, The Times ★★★★

Movements for Harpsichord and Strings (world premiere)

New World Centre, New World Symphony & Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord), Florida (December 2021)

The audience gave the work an enthusiastic response (...) an intriguing composer whose other works should be programmed.

Lawrence Budmen, South Florida Classical Review

Revel (world premiere)

The Kanneh-Masons, BBC Proms - Royal Albert Hall (August 2021)

Kidane’s score is one that hums with possibility. Dawn breaks with shimmers of glass harmonica, bowed cymbal, and flute; a spiky dance breaks out full of Stravinskian cross-rhythms and stabs of clarinet. (…) Revel is bright and tonal, energetic and clean – nothing to frighten the horses, but likeable, warm, and inviting all the same.

Ben Poore, musicomh.com ****

Steve Reich-esque cross-rhythms introducing the city; clashing layers as the sound systems collide.

Erica Jeal, The Guardian ****

It’s a fluently composed piece and enjoyable

Barry Millington, Evening Standard

Be Still

San Francisco Symphony (June 2021)

Mr. Kidane’s piece, receiving its American premiere, could hardly have been replaced, for as Mr. Salonen explained from the stage, “Be Still” was written in response to the pandemic, its first performance having occurred in January via live stream from Manchester, England. Scored almost completely for strings, the work is meditative but not inert. It tenses and relaxes repeatedly, until a twisted version of its theme asserts itself (a manifestation of our collective anxiety perhaps). A crescendo further destabilizes things. The coda comes as the first violinist enters into something of a duet with a nearby percussionist using a bow against crotales to summon the faintest tintinnabulations, until an abrupt silence brings the nine-minute work to a close. It may sound like a dig to say the music seemed to last longer on this occasion, but the observation is meant as a compliment.

David Mermelstein, Wall Street Journal

Towards Resolution

Royal Northern Sinfonia at Sage Gateshead (May 2021)

Daniel Kidane’s Towards Resolution left me wanting more. In a mere three minutes he re-imagined a Purcell fantasia in clusters of descending notes, essentially static but with glissandos and tremolos disturbing the surface

Bernard Hughes, Arts Desk ****

Be Still (world premiere)

Manchester Camerata at Stoller Hall (February 2021)

One of the best I’ve heard from this British composer: an exercise in atmospheric string tremolando chords, spookily embellished by bowed crotales, in which the harmonies gradually became more intense and dissonant. It had shape and substance.

Richard Morrison, The Times

Daniel Kidane’s Be Still, for string orchestra and bowed crotales, is quite definitely the music of 2020, reflecting (as he says) on the experience of lockdown and losing the everyday markers of passing time: but it’s also intended to create inner stillness and calm. Beginning with high tremolo strings, almost pulse-less, it extends their sound through the orchestra’s compass, as a rhythm begins and chords form fleetingly, building to a crescendo and ending with a lofty solo violin over a sustained sound carpet.

Robert Beale, The Arts Desk

Woke

BBC Symphony Orchestra, Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, London (September 2019)

Daniel Kidane’s Woke raised the curtain with a ceremonial blast. Its rhythmic and textural permutations at times sounded like a 1950s film score, at others suggesting a sinister, quasi-militaristic atmosphere.

Nick Kimberly, Evening Standard

[Woke] launched off in dancing rhythms, the string chords rising and falling in waves under the chirruping winds were not so far from Steve Reich’s minimalism, but the harmonies were darkly suggestive of struggle. Towards the end the music retreated to a lonely place, but revived to end if not in a blaze of glory, at least of hope.

Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph

Woke is a dynamic concert opener, energised by driving percussion rhythms. The large orchestra is skilfully deployed for diverse colours while always retaining a clarity of texture. The music eventually settles into lush, sonorous harmonies.

Gavin Dixon, The Arts Desk

Composer Daniel Kidane says he wants to channel his optimism for the future through music, and the result is a brightly coloured tone-poem which the BBC Symphony Orchestra under Sakari Oramo’s genial direction that turns into an agreeable aperitif for what is to come.

Michael Church, The Independent

The evening began with a new piece, Woke, by Daniel Kidane, commissioned by the BBC and performed for the very first time. It is a short, vigorous work with a rousing finale but it is not a ‘comfortable’ piece that one can listen to and relax with at the end of a working day. Kidane says himself in the programme notes that behind his urge to create an energetic piece was the wish for a subtle message – for us all to be more ‘woke’, concerning awareness of social and racial justice. He fully achieved his goal and started the Last Night with a bang.

Margarida Mota-Bull, Seen-and-Heard International

But I end at the beginning, with Daniel Kidane’s Woke, the title reminding us to be constantly aware of racism, but the music is inherently interesting in itself, kick-started by a wood-block (like a woodpecker) and teeming into life with long-held strings and chattering parts underneath, eventually coming to a unanimous halt before more rat-a-tat-tat pulses reigniting the music, before eventually building to a ringing climax, though not before the modern plastic equivalent of the ancient bullroarer made air. Electrifying and energising.

Nick Breckenfield, Classial Source

Uplifting and energising, [Woke] was also designed to leave one thinking about social and racial injustice in the world. This it certainly did, although the overriding sense one was left with was simply that of an immensely skilful composition.

Sam Smith, MusicOMH

Zulu

Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (November 2017)

Kidane’s sound world is inevitably Western, of course, but I liked the way he refracted it through something “other” so as to give it a different colour, with contrasting sound textures and energy patterns giving it its momentum.

Simon Thompson, bachtrack.com

'Dream Song'

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London (April 2018)

It is to Kidane’s credit that his piece, Dream Song, didn't provide a facile mood of optimism and celebration. Rather the reverse, in fact. The words, sung with powerful conviction by Roderick Williams and echoed by the Chineke! choir, seemed trapped in a realm of dreamlike oppression, the tense string lines shot through with threatening brass. Just as one felt a sense of light dawning, the piece came to an end. It felt like a powerful but enigmatic sketch for something that ought to be much bigger-boned.

Ivan Hewett, The Telegraph

Dream Song is an ambitious, densely scored setting, for baritone (Roderick Williams), choir (the Chineke! Chorus) and orchestra, of fragments from Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, which underpins a declamatory vocal line with insistent brass riffs and choral tone clusters, though the textures brighten as we reach the final assertion of “Let freedom ring."

Tim Ashley The Guardian

If we expected Gospel-flavoured pastiche, Kidane delivered a shock. This turned out to be a sombre, shadowed piece, the hum and stab of anxiety and trepidation carried by the strings as Roderick Williams forcefully phrased King’s words of hope.

Boyd Tonkin, theartsdesk.com

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