Our latest project, Kokoschka’s Doll, featuring Sir John Tomlinson, Rozanna Madylus and Counterpoise, has been performed at a number of venues, with one more performance to come in 2019 (see 'Concerts' for details).

John Tomlinson in Kokoschka's Doll.

Kokoschka’s Doll
by John Casken

‘Tomlinson’s titanic, heart-rending performance’ (Daily Telegraph), ‘the incomparable John Tomlinson’, ‘a compelling dramatic presence’ (Guardian), 'magnificent' (Opera),‘Counterpoise’s ceaselessly versatile and intriguing combination of piano, violin, trumpet and clarinet/saxophone’ (Independent), ‘Shot through with echoes of Wagner and Mahler, Casken’s chamber score … is lean and effective’ (The Times), 'riveting' (Seen and Heard International), ‘engaging and thought-provoking’ (Opera)

For Alma Mahler, the painter Oskar Kokoschka (1886–1980) was just one of a string of eminent lovers, but for Kokoschka his brief affair with the widow of Mahler was to haunt the rest of his life. Shortly after the liaison ended, in 1914, Kokoschka commissioned a life-size doll of Alma, which he took to concerts and other public events, finally destroying it at a party to which all his friends were invited. Alma is featured in many of his paintings, not least the famous double portrait of the couple known as The Bride of the Wind.

      The text of this new work, commissioned by Counterpoise, for singer/narrator and ensemble, is by John Casken and Barry Millington, based on poetic and epistolary texts of Kokoschka. It describes the affair as seen through the eyes of Kokoschka as a older man, evoking the passions unleashed by the affair, against the background of the physical and psychological traumas suffered by Kokoschka in the First World War. The score weaves the texts into a musical fabric that references fin-de-sičcle Vienna (including the music of Wagner and Alma Mahler) while being of our own time.

Rozanna Madylus and John Tomlinson in The Art of Love.

The Art of Love: Alma Mahler’s Life and Music

'superb, unmissable' (Independent), 'imaginative arrangements by David Matthews' (Guardian), the 'fine mezzo Rozanna Madylus' (Independent), 'Madylus was an engaging stage presence' (Daily Telegraph), ‘compelling performances’ (Opera)

Kokoschka's Doll, which lasts 40 minutes, is complemented by a sequence of music and text, featuring the work of Gustav and Alma Mahler, Wagner and Zemlinsky, under the title The Art of Love: Alma Mahler's Life and Music. The latter includes songs by both Mahlers arranged for Counterpoise by David Matthews, as well as a Webern Trio movement (unpublished and previously unperformed in the UK) for Counterpoise forces, with continuation by Matthews. The singer adopts the persona of Alma and delivers a text (by Barry Millington) telling the story of her affairs with Zemlinsky, Mahler and Kokoschka.

Bride of the Wind Kokoschka's painting The Bride of the Wind (also known as The Tempest), an allegorical picture in which the artist is depicted lying beside Alma Mahler.

John Tomlinson John Tomlinson rehearsing Kokoschka's Doll with the composer at the piano.

Rozanna Madylus Rozanna Madylus plays the part of Alma Mahler in The Art of Love.