I heard the first performance of The Triumph of Time live on BBC Radio 3 (on June 1, 1972), Lawrence Foster conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in the Royal Festival Hall. Even via a transistor radio and an earpiece, and as a fourteen-year-old on the lowest rung of musical appreciation if keen to explore, I was compelled by this music, and it received a great ovation from the audience that night, rave comments, too, later*. I have heard it several times since (including Elgar Howarth’s recording and not least a remarkable/hair-raising account conducted by Vernon Handley in the mid-nineties, RPO/RFH, sandwiched between Elgar and Vaughan Williams**) and with increasing admiration. I’m now pleased to add this masterpiece to my Column.
*“sculpted, dream-like and mesmeric”.
*“one of the most important orchestral scores to have been composed by an Englishman”.
*“one of his most disturbing pieces, a vast adagio of Mahlerian compass and inexorable tread”.
**Afterwards ‘Tod’ Handley told me that The Triumph of Time is “music of genius”.
Coming soon on Bis: http://www.colinscolumn.com/nash-ensemble-records-chamber-works-by-harrison-birtwistle-for-bis/, a notable collection of some of Birtwistle’s chamber music.