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Jonathan Dove

Jonathan Dove’s music has filled opera houses with delighted audiences of all ages on five continents. Few, if any, contemporary composers have so successfully or consistently explored the potential of opera to communicate, to create wonder and to enrich people’s lives.

Born in 1959 to architect parents, Dove’s early musical experience came from playing the piano, organ and viola. Later he studied composition with Robin Holloway at Cambridge and, after graduation, worked as a freelance accompanist, repetiteur, animateur and arranger. His early professional experience gave him a deep understanding of singers and the complex mechanics of the opera house. Opera and the voice have been the central priorities in Dove’s output throughout his subsequent career.

Starting with his breakthrough opera Flight, commissioned by Glyndebourne in 1998, Dove has gone on to write over twenty operatic works. Flight, a rare example of a successful modern comic opera, has been produced and broadcast many times, in Europe, the USA and Australia. More recently, The Adventures of Pinocchio, premiered by Opera North at Christmas 2007, achieves another rare feat in contemporary opera, being a successful full-length symphonically-conceived entertainment for a family audience. It too has been produced across the world.

Dove’s innate understanding of the individual voice is exemplified in his large and varied choral and song output. His carol The Three Kings was commissioned for the famous Nine Lessons and Carols service at King’s College, Cambridge. Dove’s confident optimism has made him the natural choice as the composer for big occasions. In 2010 A Song of Joys for chorus and orchestra opened the festivities at the Last Night of the Proms. Works such as his Missa Brevis, Wells Canticles and The Passing of the Year are in the repertories of choirs across the world.

I was probably 4 or 5 when I first clambered onto the piano stool, and tried to play the pieces I’d heard my mother playing. I think I started making up my own pieces almost immediately, but it was a long time before I could write them down, and much longer before I was satisfied with the results. In my twenties, I accompanied singers, and wrote some extended pieces for one singer friend in particular, in collaboration with two other friends who were dancers. In this theatrical world of singing and dancing, I realised I was finally making music which felt like me. Singing has been at the centre of my work ever since, whether writing operas, songs or choral pieces.
— Jonathan Dove

Vadam et circuibo civitatem

A reflection on Tomás Luis de Victoria Vadam et circuibo civitatem

I was entranced by the serene beauty of Victoria’s Vadam et circuibo civitatem, and a large part of my reflection dwells on his first eight bars. Gradually, the sadness of the forlorn lover seeking the beloved gives way to increasing agitation, as the search becomes more frenzied, reaching a climax on another quotation from the Victoria, the striking command “Adiuro vos”: “I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my beloved, that ye tell him, that I am sick of love.” The Latin phrase, “amore langueo,” suggested the languishing mood of the closing passage.

This commission has been generously supported by Sally Groves.

WORLD PREMIERE: 1st February 2017, Cutty Sark, Greenwich

ALBUM: Desires: A Song of Songs collection.