Brunel 200 Legacy Martin Kiszko – Radius of Curves.
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Radius of Curves

Martin Kiszko was one of a number of Brunel 200 Bristol artists who chose to represent and interpret Brunel musically. He worked with the Emerald Ensemble, the Exultate Singers, and conductor David Ogden to compose and produce a remarkable musical and filmic journey celebrating the construction of Brunel’s Great Western Railway and the pioneering spirit of railway travel in its heyday.

The composition of a contemporary cantata, accompanied by a back-projected film of a speeded up rail journey from London to Bristol from the driver’s point of view, featured an orchestra, soloist and singers to recount the building of the track. The film was created from archive footage from Scott Tibbles, as well as footage from Robin Toyne and further work from Jamie Child, with editing facilities provided by Rick Holbrook and David McCormick.

Martin Kiszko – Radius of Curves.

The cantata was presented in eight sections, and divided into two stories, the first telling of Brunel’s personal battle to build the railway, the second parallel story, inspired by John C. Bourne’s book ‘Bourne’s Great Western Railway’, is the journey from Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads.

The ‘Radius of Curves’ is an essential measurement deemed important by engineers and especially by Brunel. Determining curves of a larger radius for the GWR resulted in smoother bends in the track, which enabled locomotives to travel at speed. The term also served as for a metaphor for the twists and turns that occurred both professionally and personally in Brunel’s life.

The soloist and singers’ words included detail from the GWR’s budget and discussions about the gauge through to comment from the shareholders’ meetings alongside entries from Brunel’s diaries about his illnesses and personal affairs.

Martin Kiszko – Radius of Curves.

The world premiere of the work was performed in Clifton Cathedral in March 2006 and attracted an audience of over 400 people, as well as being recorded and broadcast by Bristol Community Radio Station, B200fm. The event also featured the paintings of celebrated railway artist John Austin.

Martin is an award-winning librettist and composer of over 200 film and television scores, and received the Academy of Composers' 2004 Composer of the Year Award.

Comments after the performance included:

“Congratulations on creating such a wonderful piece and delivering such a great concert – I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.”
Ben Curry, Composer

“The passing of time has not diminished the sheer enjoyment I had in experiencing the world premier of the Radius of Curves. It was without doubt one of the most exhilarating performances I have ever heard and I consider it a privilege to have been part of such a momentous occasion. You deserve, and will no doubt receive, every accolade possible!”
William Montgomery

"I just wanted to tell you what a fantastic performance a Radius of Curves was. It was most impressive. I was captivated by the whole piece."
Bernard Walton, Film Producer

Martin Kiszko – Radius of Curves.

You can hear a 2 minute clip of the final section 'Bristol' here (MP3). It was recorded at the world premiere at Clifton Cathedral in Bristol on 31 March 2006.

Photography: Mark Simmons.