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Jonny Greenwood's Horror vacui the "most engaging premiere" of the 2019 BBC Proms

Oct. 01, 2019

Jonny Greenwood's <em>Horror vacui</em> the "most engaging premiere" of the 2019 BBC Proms

On September 10, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the BBC Proms Youth Ensemble and violinist Daniel Pioro, led by Hugh Brunt, gave the world premiere of Jonny Greenwood's Horror vacui -- a new work commissioned by the BBC, on a program curated by Greenwood at Royal Albert Hall. The program also included Greenwood's piano piece 88 No 1, one of his Three Miniatures from 'Water', and works by Heinrich Ignaz von Biber, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Steve Reich. Greenwood also took to the stage, performing tampura and bass guitar. Jonny Greenwood discussing his new work prior to the Proms premiere noted:

"Horror vacui is the fear of empty space, usually in paintings. Children, and outsider artists generally, are liable to feel that a picture is unfinished if there’s any space left unfilled. For this music, I’ve focused on all the different ways there are to electronically create reverb and echoes, and translated them into the complexities of a string orchestra. Daniel Pioro’s solo violin treats the orchestra like a big reverb chamber, triggering resonances, echoes and granular-style stretching of time that emulates how artificial reverbs work. Reverbs that range from the early 20th century, with amplified resonating strings, though tape echoes and analogue delays, to today’s latest digital treatments that stretch and compress time. Perhaps this comes across as an attempt to copy electronic music – in fact it’s meant to be better. Only meant to be – I get to find out at the same time as everyone else which parts of it, if any, work (the only full rehearsal happened yesterday, and it’s too late to change it now …) so it’s a wide-open goal for hubris. But that’s alright. I love these sounds. I feel lucky and honoured to be given access to the musicians who can make them."

(An exerpt from the world premiere of Jonny Greenwood's Horror vacui at the 2019 BBC Proms/
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Proms Youth Ensemble/Daniel Piero, violin/Hugh Brunt, conductor)

Horror vacui was praised in the press following its premiere. John Lewis of The Guardian called the work, "...a startling, terrifying and challenging way to end a compelling Prom" while Ivan Hewett of The Telegraph noted, " was easily the most engaging premiere of the season so far." 

Listen to Jonny Greenwood's Water (2014) here:

(Jonny Greenwood/Water/Australian Chamber Orchestra/Richard Tognetti, conductor)

To learn more about Jonny Greenwood, visit 

Jonny Greenwood
Horror vacui (2019)
for solo violin and 68 strings (