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Clockwerk (1991)

Australian composer Maria Grenfell (b.1969) takes much inspiration from poetry, literature, visual sources, and non-Western music and literature. Born in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, Grenfell was raised in New Zealand and completed composition studies in Christchurch. With further studies in the United States, she received graduate degrees from the Eastman School of Music and the University of Southern California. Her teachers have included Stephen Hartke, Erica Muhl, James Hopkins, Morten Lauridsen, Joseph Schwantner, and Samuel Adler.  


Grenfell's orchestral music has been commissioned, performed, and recorded by all major symphony orchestras in Australia and New Zealand. In 2013, her septet Ten Suns Ablaze, commissioned by the Australia Ensemble, was awarded the 'Instrumental Work of the Year' for Tasmania at the Australian Art Music Awards, and in 2017 her double concerto Spirals received the Tasmanian award for 'Orchestral Work of the Year.' Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Grenfell scored the ABC documentary on the Tasmanian Eastern Quoll, Quoll Farm.


Currently an Associate Professor at the University of Tasmania Conservatorium of Music, Grenfell served as the Head of the Conservatorium from 2018-2019 and was on the Board of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra from 2009-2018. As an educator, she is deeply involved in mentoring young composers through various development programs throughout Australia and is a strong voice for the advancement of women composers. She is co-editor of A Century of Composition by Women: Music Against the Odds, a collection of essays on current-day and early-twentieth-century women composers' creative processes and contextual issues.


Clockwerk was composed in residence at the University of Canterbury in 1991. Grenfell describes the 9-minute string orchestra work as taking inspiration from two significant war-horses: Béla Bartók's Music for strings, percussion, celesta, and the Bach Brandenburg Concertos. She explains, [the work] "is built with a fugal construction where the opening musical subject enters one section at a time, beginning with the first violins. It works its way through many keys and gradually transforms into a new subject in triple meter, ending with an accelerated flourish." The title is doubly descriptive of the work, as the score and the music of Bach and Bartok share a kindred contrapuntal precision in their construction. The intricate figurations in the strings convey mathematic beauty, capturing the interlocking rhythmic energy and machinations of a well-oiled time-keeping contraption. (Notes by Michael-Thomas Foumai)


2019 National Sphinx Competition winner Sterling Elliot and maestro Dane Lam join forces with your Hawaiʻi Symphony Orchestra in a program with six degrees of separation. A lost treasure rediscovered, Mahler's Blumine, once part of the mammoth First Symphony, sounds once more along with Popper's electrifying Hungarian Rhapsody, Brahms's radiant Symphony No. 2, and the spellbinding Clockwerk of Australian composer Maria Grenfell.

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