Joe Cutler, Photograph © Ian Cuthbert /

Joe Cutler ‘Hawaii Hawaii Hawaii’ Reviews and BBC Radio 3 Interview Plus Korean Première of Piano & Ensemble Work

Joe Cutler’s latest album, Hawaii Hawaii Hawaii which was released last November (Birmgham Record Company label/NMC), has already received some excellent reviews:

Boundaries aren’t secure either in the music of Joe Cutler, the British composer of pieces that perplex and give the listener lots of fun. Two bone-shaking items in his impressive new album benefit from the pugnacity and élan of the Dutch ensemble Orkest de Ereprijs, captured in spirited live performances. Smoother sounds emerge from the BBC Concert Orchestra in Hawaii Hawaii Hawaii, although the composer’s mind and the saxophone soloist Trish Clowes still execute startling leaps in a work reflecting a recurring Cutler theme: musicians struggling to break free from their surroundings. Cutler, I note quietly, has now been the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s head of composition for 15 years.

★★★★ The Times

Hawaii Hawaii Hawaii (2019), the title track to Joe Cutler’s latest release for NMC, is a resplendent, witty and otherworldly saxophone concerto, expertly performed here by its commissioners – the BBC Concert Orchestra and soloist Trish Clowes. The piece is a loose setting of David Mitchell’s dystopian story ‘An Orison of Sonmi~451’ from the novel Cloud Atlas, charting the awakening of the young protagonist as she realises there might be more to life than working as an enslaved fast-food waitress incentivised by holidaying holograms. The breathy first movement recalls Tōru Takemitsu, while the energetic, game-show conveyor-belt second movement is Gershwinian in its colour. Clowes demonstrates a deep understanding of Cutler’s fascinating musical language throughout – particularly in the sticky, darkly resonant third movement. Elsewhere, the Orkest de Ereprijs performs three earlier works – the deliciously spiky September Music (2009), Bad Machine (2001, majoring in pianistic and percussive flourishes) and Chorale for Wim Megens (2008), written for the ensemble’s founding conductor. The odd cough and splutter heard in the background serves as a reminder that all four works are live performances. Listening in 2020, the shuffles and snuffles imbue humanity into an intriguing and finely wrought collection.

★★★★ BBC Music Magazine

Part one is a piece of quizzical, fin-de-siècle romanticism; part two a cartoonish riot; part three a nightmarish slab of dystopian science-fiction, where Clowes’s tenor sax seems to serve as the sole representative of humanity.

The Guardian

This showcase of four works by Cutler (b 1968) culminates in the titular saxophone concerto (2019), a live recording by the BBCCO. Inspired by a dystopian David Mitchell fiction, the score has graphic immediacy and exploits the inevitable jazz connotations of the solo instrument. Raw, raucous “Dutch minimalism” is similarly made personal in the other pieces, all cast for this Dutch ensemble.

The Sunday Times

Joe Cutler Hawaii Hawaii Hawaii on NMC

In addition, an extended interview with Joe in discussion with Robert Worby will be featured on BBC Radio 3’s New Music Show later this month. Keep an eye on their schedule!BBC Radio 3 New Music Show

Joe has just completed a new work for solo piano and 9 instruments, entitled Just Passing Through. The piece was commissioned by Seoul National University and will be filmed later this month and released by Seoul National University on their social media channels. The pieces will be premiered by Jong Hwa Park (piano) with the Seoul National University New Music Ensemble. The instrumentation includes a number of performers from their renowned Korean Traditional music department.

Jong Hwa Park. Source: artist’s Facebook page