Nico Muhly & Gibbons

In 1612, Orlando Gibbons published a remarkable collection of pieces that he described as ‘Madrigals and Mottets of 5 parts, apt for viols and voyces’. This volume includes such powerful poetic text settings as Sir Walter Raleigh’s ‘What is our life’ and everybody’s favourite ‘The Silver Swan’. But the counterpoint of Gibbons’ music is so exquisite that the music also works entirely instrumentally, as Gibbons in fact intended.

In order to celebrate the 400th anniversary of this publication, we commissioned–in partnership with the Wigmore Hall–a new work from composer Nico Muhly, written for us and the Hilliard Ensemble. Nico made a glorious piece called My Days, in which he set a portion of Psalm 39 (‘Behold, thou hast made my days as it were a span long’) and also extracts from a 17th-century report on Gibbons’ death. The marriage of voices and instruments in this work is beautifully balanced, much as in the music of Gibbons himself.

We gave the first performance of this programme, and the premier of Nico’s piece, at the Wigmore Hall in October 2012. This concert included the entire contents of Gibbons’ volume, with six singers including the Hilliards. Subsequent performances have consisted of various permutations of Gibbons and Muhly, with a variety of vocal forces.


Modernity and tradition combined to thrilling effect in a programme of work by Nico Muhly and Orlando Gibbons
–Financial Times
A musical homage to Orlando Gibbons almost outshines its original
–The Arts Desk