Marc Yeats – Pagan II

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Marc Yeats, Composer

It’s not a secret anymore that Marc and I are going to spend a lot of time working together in the next 2 years. First there will be the premiere of his impressive cycle for piano called The magical control of rain and surely some more large-scale pieces that I can’t talk about yet! Since I decided to premier some of his pieces it means that I love the music he writes and want you to love it too! What a coincidence, this is exactly the aim of this series ;-) So week 4 of our series Listen To This! dedicated to Pagan II for orchestra by Marc Yeats.

You already know how much living composers and new music are important to me, and this collaboration with Marc brings into focus another very important part of my life: new technologies. Not that Marc particularly uses electronics in his music but we met through Twitter a little while ago, and you’ll see our work together will have to do with new technologies as well. So, why Pagan II? Because it was the first piece written by Marc I ever heard and made me want to work with him. I think that’s a good enough reason, right?

According to Marc:

“Pagan II is undoubtedly the most frightening, austere work I have ever composed. It is a personal glimpse into the abyss. The music has a ritualistic feel to it, as if some huge arcane and barbaric ceremony was being witnessed, and the participants of the ceremony were being, in turn, entranced through hypnotic ‘dance’, and brutalised through music which is violent, both rhythmically and harmonically. Pagan II is not intended to be a desolate pronouncement on our future, rather a glimpse of the unthinkable.”

The piece for (quite a huge) orchestra was premiered by the Tokyo City Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Naohiro Totsuka at the Tokyo City Opera Concert Hall in November 1997. A BBC Radio 3 broadcast with the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies took place February 2000 and this is the version we’re going to listen right now:

And here, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies talking about the piece before he conducted it with the BBC Philharmonic, if you are a little curious and want to know more about the piece: