Glass Flowers, a new flute trio by Freya Waley-Cohen, premieres on 26 April at the Royal Academy of Music. The trio was commissioned by flautist Sarah O’Flynn for the Uncharted Territory tour with support from Marchus Trust, VW Foundation, Hinrichsen Foundation & Ambache Charitable Trust. Sarah performs it with Clare O’Connell (cello) and Roderick Chadwick (piano).Glass Flowersis presented alongside new student compositions inspired by Messiaen’s notebooks of annotated birdsong.
“Glass Flowers was commissioned for a tour in which the piece will sit alongside George Crumb’s Vox Balanae and works that grew out of Messaien’s annotated birdsong notebooks. George Crumb and Messiaen are already two of the composers who have the deepest influence on me. Both Vox Balanae and Messiaen’s musical relationship with birdsong find transcendence through voices from nature. I found myself focusing on both composers’ depictions of nature and exultation, a reverence for a vision of nature that feels huge and cosmic. This was core to what I was thinking of, but it was also something that felt unreachable.
As I started to write, what was coming up were fragments that felt brittle and translucent. When I was a child there was a story that I read which referred to flowers as joy that had spilled over from heaven. But my flowers felt fragile and hard, like if I pushed them up against each other they’d chip and break. I was reading a book while writing this in which there was a reference to Glass Flowers — a collection of literal glass flowers created by a father and son called Blaschka. I didn’t read further to find out about the collection, the simple pairing of the words Glass Flowers clarified the title, idea and structure for how the piece would continue. It gave me a way to treat these fragments I had created and coax them into an arrangement.” — Freya Waley-Cohen on Glass Flowers