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Guto Puw

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Guto Pryderi Puw
Born 1971
Origin Parc, Bala
Genres Classical music
Occupation(s) Composer
Conductor
University lecturer
Years active 1993–present


Guto Pryderi Puw (born 1971)[1] is a Welsh composer, university lecturer and conductor. He is considered to be one of the most promising Welsh composers of his generation and a key figure in current Welsh music.[2] Puw's music has been broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and been featured on television programmes for the BBC and S4C. He has twice been awarded the Composer's Medal at the National Eisteddfod.

Puw's works include pieces for unusual combinations of instruments, such as a tuba quartet or a trio consisting of harp, cello and double-bass, as well as more traditional forces such as solo baritone and piano, choir or orchestra. He was associated with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales as its Resident Composer, the first holder of this title, from 2006 to 2010. Puw wrote an Oboe concerto as part of this association, and his latest composition for the orchestra was premiered at the 2007 Proms. Puw's own Welsh identity is a recurrent theme in his music: some of his pieces set Welsh-language poetry to music and one of his pieces, Reservoirs, is written about the flooding of Welsh valleys to provide water for England.

Biography[edit]

Born in Parc (a village in Gwynedd near Bala),[3] Puw studied at Bangor University with John Pickard, Andrew Lewis and Pwyll ap Siôn.[4] Puw was awarded a MMus degree in 1996 and a PhD degree in 2002.[4] He was then awarded an Arts Council of Wales bursary and studied with the composer John Metcalf.[5] Puw was appointed as a Lecturer in Music at Bangor University in 2006, having previously been a Teaching Fellow in Music from 2004.[4] A Welsh speaker, he has been the Welsh Medium Teaching Fellow for the School of Music.[6] He was the founding member and conductor for Côr Cyntaf i'r Felin, a Welsh-language choir based in Y Felinheli near Bangor.[7]

Puw has received commissions from (amongst others) BBC Radio 3, the Welsh baritone Jeremy Huw Williams, the Bangor New Music Festival and the North Wales International Music Festival.[4] He was appointed the first Resident Composer with BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW) in 2006 and held this position until 2010. During this time, Puw wrote a concerto for oboe (premiered in 2006) and an orchestral piece, ... onyt agoraf y drws ..., which was first performed to critical acclaim at the 2007 Proms.[5]

He has been active in the promotion of new music in north Wales through his involvement with the Bangor Music Festival, being its Artistic Director and founding member since 2000. In 2014 he received the Sir Geraint Evans Award by the Welsh Music Guild for his ‘significant contribution to Welsh music.’

Music[edit]

Welsh links[edit]

Puw's music is rooted in the language and literature of Wales, with a particular affinity to the poetry of R. S. Thomas.[2] Welsh titles and settings of poetry in Welsh, such as Mecanwaith, Dawns y Sêr, and ... onyt agoraf y drws ..., feature in his work. He has won the Composer's Medal at the National Eisteddfod of Wales twice, winning it first in 1995 for a harp piece, Ffantasia II.[3] In 1997, when the Eisteddfod was held in Bala, he won the Medal for a string quartet, Mecanwaith ("Mechanism") – this piece was later featured in S4C's television series Y Cyfansoddwyr ("The Composers").[3] Mecanwaith has also been performed by the Duke Quartet at the 1998 Bath International Music Festival and the 1999 Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.[8]

Orchestral works[edit]

Puw's oboe concerto was commissioned by BBC NOW and was premiered by them at Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon, on 27 April 2006, with the orchestra's principal oboist (David Cowley) as the soloist.[9] It takes its inspiration from different qualities of the human voice, including stutters and chatterboxes.[9] Puw has said that "The second movement is inspired by talkative people who won't let you contribute to a conversation", represented by a repeated row of 13 notes played until "it gets rather unbearable".[9][10] It was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 1 March 2007 as part of a programme of music by Welsh composers to celebrate St David's Day.[11] The concerto won Puw the 2007 BBC Radio 3 Listeners Award at the British Composer Awards.[9]

His orchestral piece Reservoirs was inspired by a 1968 poem by R. S. Thomas about the drowning of Welsh valleys such as Tryweryn (a few miles from where Puw grew up) and Clywedog to provide water for England.[12] Puw had a particular affinity with the topic as his grandfather lost farmland in the Tryweryn flooding.[13] Nevertheless, he has said that he "decided not to take the poem too literally because as a composer you can be subject to criticism for doing that."[10] It was nominated in 2005 in the Large-Scale Composition category of the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards.[14] The music was used in a BBC2 Wales documentary, "Drowning a Village", broadcast on 9 March 2006.[13] A performance by BBC NOW was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 as part of the 2005 Vale of Glamorgan Festival.[15]

As part of his association with BBC NOW, Puw was commissioned by the BBC to compose for the 2007 Proms. His orchestral piece, ... onyt agoraf y drws ... ("... unless I open the door ...") was premiered on 9 August 2007, conducted by David Atherton.[16] It is based on a story from the Mabinogion, a collection of medieval Welsh tales, in which a group of warriors, lately returned from Ireland, feast in Harlech for seven years with the severed head of their leader at the head of the table. They then feast in Penfro for eighty years in a hall with three doors, and only remember the dreadful events that happened in Ireland when the third door opens. Each of the three doors in Penfro was represented by an instrument in a box in the Royal Albert Hall.[16]

Other works[edit]

Unusual instrumentation and unusual performance techniques, including elements of improvisation, are also important features of his work. In 1998 he composed X-ist, a piece for IST (the Improvising String Trio, consisting of harp, cello and double-bass). It was described by reviewers as a "frighteningly frantic" and "challenging" piece.[17][18] X-ist uses a graphic score and includes written directions to the players that act as "creative stimuli", containing notes and motifs to be followed.[17] The piece also requires the cellist and double-bassist to tap their instruments, as well as use normal playing methods.[17] Another piece requiring improvisation by performers was his commission for the 2001 Bangor New Music Festival, Trioled, which was written for ensemble (saxophone, guitar, harp, keyboard, cello, piano) and optional dancer. In his performing notes, Puw describes the pieces as a "stimulus for musical improvisation" in which any notes, normal or extended musical techniques and / or percussive effects may be applied.[19] Trioled has two contrasting sub-sections, a and b, arranged in the form a-b-a-a-a-b-a-b to match the Welsh poetic measure of the same name, with the strings playing calmly in the "a" sections, and saxophone and keyboard (gradually joined by the other instruments) playing in a more lively manner in the "b" sections.[19] The musicians and the dancer are required to react to each other's contributions in each section to create a "multi-media" experience.[19]

Visages, his 1999 piece for 2 tubas and 2 euphoniums, was described as "astringent, often whimsical but well written for these instruments".[20] Puw said that in the piece "Freedom is granted to the performers to make any subtle facial expressions that add to the musical interpretation".[21] Puw describes Ffantasia III (a piece for solo piano, composed for the 2000 Bangor New Music Festival) as an "intimate reflection" upon the music of, and a tribute to, Robert Schumann, his "intricate compositional style" and "world of delicate expression".[22] The music becomes "simpler and softer" throughout the piece, moving from the "rhythmic complexity" of the opening bars through to slow quavers transforming into triplets.[22] An ensemble piece, different light (for clarinet, violin, cello and piano) was "inspired by the idea of moving a picture from one place to another, be it to another house, or from one room to the next, or even from one wall to another."[23] As the picture is moved, it looks the same but is perceived in a different light.[23] Puw attempts to convey this in musical terms by having each instrument enter separately with its own musical phrase in the first part of the piece. Then, in the second part of the piece, all the thematic material is repeated with the instruments playing simultaneously, so that the music is similarly perceived in a different light.[23] different light was featured at the 2001 UKwithNY festival at the Angel Orensanz Center in New York City.[8] His 2005 composition for the Bangor New Music Festival, Stereo Type, was written for amplified typewriters and tape. It was premiered by UWB School of Music students in the Deiniol Shopping Centre, Bangor, on 5 March 2005.[4]

List of compositions[edit]

A list of Puw's major compositions.[3][4]

Date Composed Title Instrumentation Notes
01993 Ffantasia violin
1993 Becoming soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass Words by R. S. Thomas; first performed by the London Sinfonietta Voices on 27 March 1994[24]
1994–5 Consierto (Concerto) violin and orchestra
1995 Ffantasia II harp Winner of the Composer's Medal at the 1995 National Eisteddfod
1996 Sonata oboe and piano Commissioned by the North Wales Music Festival
1997 Mecanwaith ("Mechanism") string quartet Winner of the Composer's Medal at the 1997 National Eisteddfod
1998 X-ist harp, cello and double-bass Commissioned and recorded by IST (Improvising String Trio)
1998 Capel Celyn tenor/high voice and piano Commissioned by the North Wales Music Festival
1998 The Loch Ness Monster's song unaccompanied SATB choir Commissioned by Adlais. View selected pages at Orianna Publications
1998–9 Ad Noctum flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano Commissioned by MusicFest Aberystwyth
1999 Iddi Hi tenor and piano/harp Recorded by John Eifion (Sain)[8]
1999 Visages tuba quartet Commissioned and recorded by Tubalaté
1999 Cylch Gwag
("Empty Cycle")
piano
2000 Blodeuwedd baritone and piano Words by Nesta Wyn Jones; commissioned by Jeremy Huw Williams and recorded by him on "Songs for Jeremy" (Sain, 2000)
2000 "Swyn i estyn bywyd..." harp
2000 Ffantasia III solo piano Commissioned by the Bangor New Music Festival, premiered by Ian Pace
2000 different light clarinet, violin, cello and piano Commissioned by the Vale of Glamorgan Festival
2001 Trioled ("Triolet") Improvisation for saxophone, guitar, harp, keyboard, cello, piano and optional dancer Commissioned by the Bangor New Music Festival
2001 Dawns y Sêr
("Dance of the Stars")
baritone and piano Words by Nesta Wyn Jones, commissioned by Jeremy Huw Williams and the Arts Council of Wales;[25] a version for baritone and orchestra was first performed on 16 March 2007 by Jeremy Huw Williams and BBC NOW conducted by Grant Llywellyn.[25]
2002 Reservoirs orchestral work for BBC NOW Commissioned by BBC Radio 3
2003 Ffantasia IV (Canon) solo organ Commissioned by North Wales International Music Festival, premiered by Huw Tregelles Williams
2005 Stereo Type amplified typewriters and tape Commissioned by the Bangor New Music Festival
2006 Concerto for Oboe and orchestra oboe and orchestra Commissioned and premiered by BBC NOW, with oboist David Cowley.
2007 ... onyt agoraf y drws ... ("... unless I open the door ...") orchestra Orchestral work for BBC NOW for 2007 Proms
2009 Chwyrnu (yn EN)
(Snoring (in NY))
SSAATTBB a cappella choir Commissioned by the Bangor New Music Festival. Premiered by Exaudi, directed by James Weeks, during the BNMF at Bangor Cathedral on 18 March 2009.
2009 Hadau narrator, mezzo-soprano and harp Commissioned by the 2009 National Eisteddfod, Y Bala
2009 Agorawd 'Torri'r Garreg' orchestra Commissioned by Bangor University as part of their 125th anniversary celebrations, premiered by BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Listen to an extract here
2010 Music for Prams two percussionists Commissioned by The Bangor New Music Festival, 20 March 2010
2010 Hologram orchestra Commissioned by BBC Radio 3 for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, premiered during the Bangor New Music Festival, Prichard-Jones Hall by BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Grant Llywellyn on 26 March 2010
2010 Noson Tân Gwyllt
(Bonfire Night)
baritone and piano Commissioned by Jeremy Huw Williams and premiered at the North Wales International Music Festival, St Asaph Cathedral 22 September 2010
2012 Digwyddiad Sugnwr Llwch
(Vacuum Event)
three performers Premiered by the Bangor New Music Ensemble at the Bangor New Music Festival, Powis Hall, 15 March 2012
2012 Naid Sgi
(Ski Jump)
one performer Premiered by the Bangor New Music Ensemble at the Bangor New Music Festival, Powis Hall, 15 March 2012
2013 Trio (lliw)
(Trio (colour))
violin, cello and piano Premiered by the Mozart-Vienner Trio, North Wales International Music Festival, St Asaph, 23 September 2013
2012–2014 Concerto i'r Ffidil – Llonyddwch Tyner
(Violin Concerto – Soft Stillness)
solo violin and chamber orchestra Commissioned by Tŷ Cerdd for the Bangor New Music Festival. Premiered by Madeleine Mitchell (vn) and Orchestra of the Swan, conducted by David Curtis, Bangor New Music Festival, Prichard-Jones Hall, Bangor University 14 March 2014
2014 Tair Cerdd Dylan Thomas
(Three Dylan Thomas Poems)

I - Light breaks where no sun shines II - Should lanterns shine III - Sometimes the sky's too bright

SATB a cappella choir Commissioned by The School of Music, Bangor University and Pontio. Premiered by the Bangor University Singers during the 'My Friend Dylan Thomas' Festival, Powis Hall, Bangor, 29 October 2014
2016 Fy nghangen lân, fy nghowled glyd
(My pure bough, my warm embrace)
flute, clarinet, violin, piano Commissioned by Dr Reuben Pace for the 'Hearing Orpheus Today' event. Premiered by the Orpheus Ensemble at the Gozo Ministry Hall, Malta on 28 May 2016
2011-17 Y Tŵr
(The Tower)
chamber opera in 3 Acts Commissioned by Music Theatre Wales and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru. Premiere at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff during the Vale of Glamorgan Festival on 19 May 2017

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • 1995 – Winner of the Composer's Medal at the National Eisteddfod of Wales for Ffantasia II (harp)[3]
  • 1997 – Winner of the Composer's Medal at the National Eisteddfod of Wales for Mecanwaith (string quartet)[3]
  • 2005 – Reservoirs (orchestral) nominated in the Large-Scale Composition category of the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Awards[14]
  • 2007 – Winner of the BBC Radio 3 Listeners Award at the British Composer Awards for his Oboe Concerto[9]
  • 2013 – Sir Geraint Evans Award presented by the Welsh Music Guild "for his significant contribution to Welsh music"

Recordings[edit]

  • Reservoirs – Orchestral Works by Guto Pryderi Puw, Signum Records (May 2014). Tracks includes ...onyt agoraf y drws..., Concerto for Oboe, Reservoirs, Hologram and Break the Stone' Overture.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Press Packs – New music: BBC commissions". BBC Online. 25 April 2007. Retrieved 8 January 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Vale of Glamorgan Festival composers 2005". Vale of Glamorgan Festival. Archived from the original on 9 February 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f "Guto Pryderi Puw". Composers of Wales. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Profile of Dr Guto Pryderi Puw". Bangor University. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  5. ^ a b "Resident Composer". BBC Online. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  6. ^ "Historical Research Inspires "Tywysogion"". Bangor University. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  7. ^ "Yr Arweinydd" (in Welsh). Cor Cyntaf i'r Felin. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c "Doctor Guto Pryderi Puw". Welsh Music Information Centre. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c d e "5th British Composer Awards – Winners Announced" (PDF). PRS for Music. 6 December 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  10. ^ a b Western Mail. 21 April 2006.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  11. ^ "Afternoon on 3". BBC Online. 1 March 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  12. ^ "Vale of Glamorgan Festival of Music 2005 – Programmes". Vale of Glamorgan Festival. Archived from the original on 4 February 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  13. ^ a b "Tryweryn reservoir 'unnecessary'". BBC News. 9 March 2006. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  14. ^ a b "Guto Puw's 'Reservoirs' nominated for RPS Music Award". Bangor University. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  15. ^ "Hear And Now: Vale of Glamorgan Festival". BBC Online. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  16. ^ a b BBC Proms Guide 2007 ISBN 978-1-84607-256-7
  17. ^ a b c Waxman, Ken (13 January 2003). "IST". Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  18. ^ Horn, Walter. "IST Ghost Notes". Bruce's Fingers. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  19. ^ a b c "Catalogue: Trioled" (in Welsh). Welsh Music Information Centre. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  20. ^ Scowcroft, Philip (June 2001). "Earth and Moon: Music for Brass Quartet". MusicWeb International. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  21. ^ "Catalogue: Visages". Welsh Music Information Centre. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  22. ^ a b "Catalogue: Ffantasia III" (in Welsh). Welsh Music Information Centre. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  23. ^ a b c "Catalogue: Different Light". Welsh Music Information Centre. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  24. ^ "Catalogue: Becoming". Welsh Music Information Centre website. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  25. ^ a b "Catalogue: Dawns y Sêr" (in Welsh). Welsh Music Information Centre website. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 

External links[edit]