The meaning of music in a terrifying world: BCMG to premiere Joe Cutler and Max Hoehn’s Sonata for Broken Fingers

The meaning of music in a terrifying world: BCMG to premiere Joe Cutler and Max Hoehn’s Sonata for Broken Fingers
Joe Cutler: Sonata for Broken Fingers

An urban myth tells of how, one evening, Stalin made a surprise phone call to Radio Moscow demanding the urgent delivery of a record: a Mozart piano concerto played by Maria Yudina. Unfortunately, radio companies at this time did not always preserve their broadcasts for a future release or even for their own archive. But rather than say ‘no’ to Stalin, Radio Moscow gathered together Yudina and their orchestra in the middle of the night and made the recording from scratch, ready to be delivered to the Kremlin the following morning. In the version of the myth as told by Shostakovich, it was this recording that was found on Stalin’s gramophone player when the dictator had his fatal stroke.

Now, the remarkable life of virtuoso pianist, Maria Yudina (1899-1970) is the inspiration for a new opera, Sonata for Broken Fingers, by composer Joe Cutler and librettist Max Hoehn to be premiered by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG) on 14 July 2024 at the CBSO Centre in Birmingham. 

The project is a collaboration between BCMG, the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and Birmingham-based composer, Joe Cutler, who runs the Conservatoire’s composition department. The premiere is being presented in collaboration with Birmingham Record Company and Opera21. Sian Edwards conducts with a cast including Claire Booth, James Cleverton, Stephen Richardson, Lucy Schaufer and Christopher Lemmings. And the good news is that the work will be recorded for future release by Birmingham Record Company.

Sonata for Broken Fingers is Joe Cutler’s first opera. An 80-minute claustrophobic thriller, it is conceived as an intimate sound experience, strongly influenced by the genre of radio drama and explores the meaning of music in a terrifying world.

Full details from BCMG’s website.


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