Premiere review – The Guardian

“First performances of new pieces were greeted by highly enthusiastic, full houses in the vibrant last weekend of Cheltenham’s music festival. Drawing from the remarkable wildlife and soundscape recordings of environmentalist Bernie Krause, Richard Blackford’s The Great Animal Orchestra, a five-movement “bio-symphony” for orchestra, was premiered at the Town Hall by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Martyn Brabbins. The sounds of the creatures – from a pack of wolves howling to insects to the musician wren – were arresting, galvanising us into listening anew to living soundscapes from around the world.”

Read the full review here:

Gramophone Magazine review

Another great review of The Great Animal Orchestra Symphony in the October 2014 issue of Gramophone magazine.

“The Great Animal Orchestra was premiered this summer at the Cheltenham Festival and this recording was made a few days later. In his new, exotic work, Richard Blackford introduces the sounds of wildlife, as collected and recorded by Bernie Krause to begin each movement. You may recall that Blackford employed a similar ploy in his cantata Voices of Exile (7/14) by having the actuality of the dispossessed woven into the fabric of the work. The melange of the orchestra with sounds from the animal kingdom works in favour of The Great Animal Orchestra where the two coexist without hiatus.

The first movement, a swift allegro, opens in the Borneo rain forest, with birdsong and a pair of gibbons. A Scherzo of chattering frogs and woodpecker follows, then an elegy of wailing beavers. A march of elephants leads into ‘The Song of the American Musician Wren’. Blackford is a dab hand with his orchestral palette. His scoring is colourful and he fashions a suite in symphonic outline with an internal structure to each movement. The elegy comes from the heart, while the movement to the American wren is a joyous paean to nature, with the pentatonic scale running through it to embrace the wide outdoors.” Adrian Edwards — Gramophone October 2014