Douglas Weiland

~ Composer ~

Biography


DOUGLAS GORDON WEILAND… 

…is the late Sir Neville Marriner’s most commissioned composer, with three major orchestral works spanning 1992 – 2006: Divertimento for strings (1992), Clarinet Concerto (2002), Triple Concerto (2006). Along with Fourth & Fifth Quartets (2011), a large-scale Flute Concerto (2014) for Susan Milan and a new choral orchestral Requiem (2019) these works represent the pinnacle of his artistic contribution today.

It was announced in September 2018 that the complete works of Douglas Weiland are to be held in the Schusterwerkstatt at Brahms Museum, Mürzzuschlag, Austria. This recognition is thanks to the work of eminent musicologist, pianist-founder of Altenberg Trio Wien, Claus-Christian Schuster.

Douglas was born on April 16 1954, Great Malvern, Worcestershire. He lives in rural Norfolk with his wife, Hilary and son, Benjamin.

Weiland’s output comprises concertos, quartets, quintets, trios, sonatas, octet, suites, cantatas, motets, masses, anthems, songs, other instrumental, orchestral, choral and choral orchestral works. Prior to April 1990 Douglas had been a violinist. Since then his sole professional occupation has been that of a full-time composer.

His first substantial achievements were in the form of three major chamber works (Voice Quintet, First Quartet, Piano Quintet) written for the ensemble of which he was a founder member, William Hennessy’s Australian Quartet (ASQ); these works were composed between 1985 – 88. The Voice Quintet was premièred at the 1986 Adelaide International Festival, with the composer’s wife, Hilary Weiland, mezzo; the First Quartet the ASQ toured to countless première concert halls around the world; the Piano Quintet was performed and recorded by the Australian Quartet, with the great English pianist and life-long friend Marie-Noëlle Kendall to whom the work is dedicated, during the years following Douglas’s departure from the ensemble.

Weiland’s music has benefited from the extraordinary champion of it, that is William Hennessy. Much success and achievement over the past three and a half decades has been due in some degree or other to the support from this great artist and musician.

From 1990 commissioned works ranged from the Three Sir Neville Marriner Commissions: Divertimento for Strings (co-commissioned Academy of St Martin-in-the-fields 1992), Clarinet Concerto (co-commissioned Julian Burnside QC 2002), Triple Concerto (co-commissioned ASMF / Altenberg Trio Vienna 2006); to the series of chamber works produced for and premièred at the Norfolk & Norwich Music Club UK as their Composer-in-residence: Second Piano Trio (2003) Altenberg Trio Wien, Third Solo Cello Suite (2004) the first two performances from Steven Isserlis, Clarinet Quintet (2004) Andrew Marriner/ASMF Ensemble, and Third Quartet (2005) commissioned for the Janáček Quartet, premièred by the Hamer Quartet Melbourne.

The Divertimento for Strings received its World Première on the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields 1993 Tour of the Far East with performances in Manila and at the Victoria Hall Singapore, followed shortly by their London Première at Queen Elizabeth Hall. Further performances by the Academy took place on their 1994 North America Tour; all were directed by Kenneth Sillito. Of William Hennessy’s performances of the work, that given with the students of Melbourne University is held in the ABC permanent archives.

One of Weiland’s priceless miniatures, the motet “H. Baptisme (II)” (George Herbert), first heard at London’s Temple Church in 1992, was performed at Trinity College Chapel at the college’s George Herbert Celebration in March 1993, the Choir of Trinity College Cambridge conducted by the late Dr. Richard Marlow. In October of that year Ronald Corp conducted the New London Children’s Choir at St James’s Piccadilly in the première of “Huge Griffons” (Edward Stirling Booth), a piece commissioned by Corp for the choir through the RVW Trust.

At the centre-middle of his chamber music output are two large-scale sister works:

First Piano Trio (1996) commissioned Rudi & Gloria Bretschneider and Piano Quartet Homage to Philip Kendall (1999) commissioned N&NMC; the first, an ecstatic celebration of a life entering the world (dedicated to his son Benjamin); the other, a profound lament and thanksgiving for a life leaving it (dedicated to his close friend, Philip Kendall).

The First Trio received numerous performances in Europe given by Altenberg Trio Wien, most notably on 24th October 2000 at their own Musikverein Brahms Saal series in Vienna. The Piano Quartet received performances in England by the Pro Arte Piano Quartet – Hamish Milne, pf, Kenneth Sillito, vn, Robert Smissen, va, Stephen Orton, vc – and was recorded by the Melba Quartet with Marie-Noëlle Kendall, pf.

Of his Three Sonatas for Violin & Pianoforte, Ops. 26,28,29, the First (1999) was written in memory of Gracia Lezama. Weiland, in an excursion out of ‘performing retirement’, made archival recordings of Ops. 26 & 28 with Marie-Noëlle Kendall. The well-known English violinist and brother-in-law of Gracia Lezama, Peter Thomas, gave the World Première of the First Sonata with pianist Philip Fisher in a recital at Birmingham University’s Barber Institute of Fine Arts in 2000.

On November 19 2009 Sir Neville Marriner conducted the landmark World Première of his Clarinet Concerto Op.30 (2002)* with Andrew Marriner and the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra at the Melbourne Recital Centre. There followed in 2013 a second MCO/MRC performance of the work given by Australian virtuoso clarinettist David Griffiths.

In 2009 Douglas Weiland fulfilled the 2001 Leonard Smith Legacy Commission (London). “Composed during three weeks of October 2009, Concerto 290 in A min for violin and strings was conceived and born out of a life-time’s marvelling at the Bach Violin Concertos, written around 1720; 290 years ago.” The Concerto was premièred the following year by William Hennessy and the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra conducted by Michael Dahlenburg as part of their 2010 Regional Tour of Victoria.

Contained amongst Weiland’s recent body of work are some of his most substantial statements. The collaboration with poet, Gary Simons, resulted in a set of three unaccompanied double choir motets for Norwich Cathedral. Many years earlier, in May 2009 David Lowe directed there a performance of the motet “Vere Dominus Est”, commissioned by Christopher and Judith Lawrence. His Fourth & Fifth Quartets were written in support of the establishment of a new composition chair in Melbourne. In August 2014 Douglas Weiland completed a dynamic large-scale Flute Concerto (Op.48) for legendary British flautist Susan Milan.

In his 2014 Grawemeyer Award USA Nomination,* London publisher Roy Mowatt wrote of the Op.50 Fourth Quartet: “This work is one of a number of masterpieces written in the last ten years, culminating in the Clarinet Concerto and Fourth and Fifth Quartets”.

Other recent compositions include the Op.55 Octet, commissioned and premiered by William Hennessy; Missa Brevis written in memory of Dr. Zaouré Schuster, born in Almaty, Kazakhstan, May 3 1953, who passed away in Vienna, November 9 2015; Westmorland Mass, the introduction of which into English Cathedral/College life began with a performance of the Agnus Dei given by Stephen Layton and Choir of Trinity College Cambridge at Trinity College Chapel on May 23 2017.

An historic event took place on Good Friday 2018 at St Peter’s Church, Westleton, Suffolk . Douglas’s collaboration with Professor Tina Beattie resulted in the first performance of ‘Twelve Words’ (Op.43 2008) (String Trio & Speaker) – a revelation in music of Christ’s words “from and beyond the Cross”, following in the tradition of Haydn’s ‘Seven Last Words from the Cross’. In a magical performance given by Kenneth Sillito (vn), with Michael Dolan (va) & Michael Hurwitz (vc), Tina Beattie’s majestic delivery of her splendid Script was “the culmination of a treasured several months’ collaboration on the project.”

Also historic is the first commercially available ‘Weiland’ CD due for worldwide release later this year. Melbourne Quartet’s recording of his Fourth & Fifth Quartets (Ops. 50/51) is due for release on the Naxos label in April 2020.

To his extraordinary wife, Hilary, Douglas has either written or dedicated numerous works, including the immaterial and inspired miniature “The Lord’s Prayer”, a gift for her at their wedding in Bowness-on-Windermere in 1982; and a small-scale Magnificat & Nunc Dimittis written in celebration of the birth of their son thirteen years later.

May 2019 saw the completion of the Op.59 Requiem Mass (N&NMC Commission sponsored G. Simons, Sept. 2018). Interlaced amongst the selected orthodox Latin texts are four new Simons poems in English. To three have been assigned the musical device of the Chorale that Bach iconically fashioned in his Passions. Not only for purely momentary reflection, in the Requiem the chorale represents more a stepping aside to consider the familiar lines through rays of a new and fresh perspective. This is especially powerful in the placement of Chorale I. The Gary Simons poems bring elegant simplicity, integrity and profound spiritual focus that, in the context of the requiem, heighten, rather than diminish, the theology of the mass.

The new Requiem was conceived and is dedicated To Victims of Terrorism. Plans currently underway are directed to a special first performance by the Academy of St Martin-in-the-fields conducted by the composer as part of the 20th Anniversary commemoration of 9/11 in autumn 2021.

In 2021 Douglas will conduct the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra in a program featuring his music.

For performance, publication and commission details regarding works mentioned in the concise biography, see under Catalogue

* Refer to Reviews & Testimonials