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Freya Waley-Cohen

London, England

Composer

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Described as ‘at once intimate and visionary’ (BBC Music Mag), Freya Waley-Cohen’s music is characterised by contrasts between earthy rhythmic play and fragility, luminous spaces, and a sense of the otherworldly. Waley-Cohen has been commissioned by institutions and ensembles including Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Proms, Wigmore Hall, City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, The King’s Singers, The Manchester Collective and The Hermes Experiment, as well as the Aldeburgh, Presteigne, Santa Fe, and Cheltenham festivals. Her music has been released on Signum, Nimbus, Nonclassical, Delphian, Platoon, and NMC records.

Upcoming premieres in the 2025/26 season include Mother Tongue, a new four movement work for the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Ed Gardner; The Moon, The Moss & the Mushrooms, a new song cycle for Roderick Williams and Christopher Glynn commissioned by the Two Moors Festival, and co-commissioned by Shipston Song and Music-in-the-Round; A new work for the Archipelago Collective’s 10th anniversary festival on San Juan Island WA; and a new work for classical orchestra for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment in response to Fanny Mendelssohn’s Das Jahr. Also upcoming is the release on NMC of Waley-Cohen’s Debut Disc, Spell Book, with performances from the Manchester Collective as well as Tamsin Waley-Cohen, Ann Beilby, Nathaniel Boyd, Hèloïse Werner, Fleur Barron and Katie Bray.

Highlights of recent seasons have included a concert at the Barbican’s Milton Court devoted to Waley-Cohen’s works, including the premieres of two newly commissioned works to complete her dramatic song cycle Spell Book, performed by the Manchester Collective; a new work for the Colin Currie Percussion Quartet premiered at Wigmore Hall in February 2024; her orchestral work Demon, commissioned by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, and premiered on 22 February 2023 at Birmingham Symphony Hall by the CBSO under the baton of Ilan Volkov; and her work for string orchestra and solo recorder player, Variation on Sellinger’s Round, was commissioned and premiered by the Amsterdam Sinfonietta, led by Daniel Bard with soloist Lucie Horsch, in a series of concerts touring the Netherlands 10 – 17 February 2023.

Other recent successes include the world premiere of Pocket Cosmos, premiered in June 2022 by commissioners London Chamber Orchestra and directed by Pekka Kuusisto. This concert concluded her year as London Chamber Orchestra’s Composer-in-Residence for the 2021/22 season; the staging of Waley-Cohen’s contemporary dramatic song cycle Spell Book at Longborough Festival Opera and Waley-Cohen’s first opera WITCH, commissioned in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Royal Academy of Music. The world premiere took place in March 2022, directed by Polly Graham and conducted by Ryan Wigglesworth. WITCH was subsequently nominated for a 2022 Ivors Composer Award.

Waley-Cohen has created a number of immersive works and installations including Permutations (2017), an interactive artwork and a synthesis of architecture and music created during an Open Space Residency at Snape Maltings from 2015 – 2017.

Waley-Cohen was the 2019/20 Associate Composer at Wigmore Hall, which held a day of concerts in March 2023 focused on her music. She was also Associate Composer of St. David’s Hall’s contemporary music series, ‘Nightmusic’, from 2018 – 2021. Winner of a 2017 Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize, Waley-Cohen held an Open Space Residency at Snape Maltings from 2015 – 2017 and was 2016 – 2018 Associate Composer of Nonclassical. She was a founding member and artistic director of Listenpony concert series and record label which commissioned over 50 composers from 2012-2022. Waley-Cohen currently lives in London.

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