Waka, Op. 24a

mezzo-soprano and piano
duration 13 minutes
composed in 1972, revised 1981


commissioned by Eiko Nakamura with funds from the Arts Council of Great Britain

published by Novello/Wise Music


original version:

first performed by Eiko Nakamura and Jonathan Hinden at the Wigmore Hall, 28 March 1972

revised version:

first performed by Sue Anderson and Murray Hipkin, BMIC, 2 March 1982

also performed:

Sue Anderson and Murray Hipkin, GSMD, 18 March 1982
Sue Anderson and Pam Lidiard, BMIC, 6 June 1985
Mary King and Julian Jacobson (during a Shiva Nova concert) at the Purcell Room, London, on 29 January 1988
Antonia Kendall and Justin Connolly, BMIC, 14 April 1993
Sue Anderson and Nicolas Hodges, Westminster School, 14 Jan 2000


first broadcast: Music in our time, Tuesday 26th Mar 1974, 15:40 on BBC Radio 3, performed by Meriel and Peter Dickinson


[BMIC: Sue Anderson and Murray Hipkin. http://heritagequay.org/archives/BMC/RE/C192-03/ ]

[BMIC: Sue Anderson and Pamela Lidiard. https://heritagequay.org/archives/BMC/RE/C723-02/ (sung a tone down)]

programme note:

Waka is the name given to the classical form of the Japanese poetry of sensibility which provides the text for this work.  Like the later and more familiar haiku, waka are brief, often elliptical statements about life and nature.  The poems, which date from around 1000 AD, deal with stylised subject matter, and they have been grouped so as to take advantage of similarities and contrasts in the chosen texts.  Thus, I, III, and V use images from nature and their relation to man’s feelings about himself, while II and IV are direct reflections upon the central adventure of his life, the pursuit of love with all its uncertain certainties.  The final text refers to the equivalent deity to the Greek Charon, watching over the gate into paradise or nirvana; the sound of the birds is compared to the cries of migrating souls at the end of their earthly pilgrimage, and the pun-like element so common in Japanese poetry is here used in the place name Awaji, which can mean “sea-foam”, or “never-finding”.

The work was commissioned by Eiko Nakamura with funds from the Arts Council of Great Britain and first performed by the artist at the Wigmore Hall, 28 March 1972.

Justin Connolly

(source: Novello score)


Premiere: The Times 7-iv-72

other comments:

The manuscript of the original Japanese version survives at the RCM library.

Op. 24b was a version for mezzo and orchestra (source: Grove 6), of which no trace has been found.