National Portraits

Cowie, Edward (2006) National Portraits. [Composition]

Item Type: Composition
Creators: Cowie, Edward
Abstract / Summary:

A work for 24 solo voices (SATB/divisi) in 9 movements.

Duration: 61 minutes.

Pub United Music Publishers, London; ISMN M 2251 0612 8.

'National Portraits' was commissioned by BBC Radio 3 and the National Portrait Gallery, London for its 150th anniversary, and premièred there on 8 June 2006. Undoubtedly my most ambitious BBC commission, it was designed following a proposal of NPG's Director that I respond to subjects from a 30 year history of portrait commissions. From a shortlist of 30, I chose nine individuals, most either directly or indirectly connected with the history of my academic fields and/or research interests. These were (as they are ordered in the work): Daley Thompson, Dame Antonia (AS) Byatt, Lord Foster, Sir Alan Ayckbourn, Sir George and Lady Christie, Prof Stephen Hawking, Sir John Sulston, Fiona Shaw and Julian Bream.

The work’s structure was defined through face-to-face 'sittings', which took place much as would a series of exchanges between portrait painter and subject. Detailed questionnaires were prepared and answered before each first sitting. This, together with the work-sessions, provided me with indicators of the kinds of musical materials to be used, including (in some cases) quotations and/or transcriptions of pre-existing music(s).

The work’s technical complexity was highly conditional upon the expertise of the BBC Singers (with whom I have collaborated since the mid 1970s) for realisation in performance. Their performance of the work, under Nicholas Kok, was recorded by the BBC and broadcast on 'Performance on 3' on 11 September 2006.

Official URL:
Date: 1 March 2006
Depositing User: Ex Falmouth Staff
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2014 13:49
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2017 16:03


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