CLASSICAL MUSIC City of London Sinfonia: Playing in the New The Barbican, London
Wednesday 16 October 1996
The weekend began on Saturday afternoon with the world premiere of Blowing the Fuse, in which composer Priti Paintal threw players from the CLS together with her own ensemble Shiva Nova, providing space for composition and improvisation to work together. The work built outwards from phrases that had the elemental simplicity of good show tunes, allowing Eastern and Western instruments to mix their distinctive colours. At times the small string section presented an insistent drone against which the solo instruments bounced their free-flowing ideas; at other moments the whole ensemble united in jaunty choruses that acted as a kind of structural brake on the improvisers' flights. The piece as a whole communicated an infectious pleasure in the shared act of making music happen.
Later that evening, Richard Hickox, CLS founder and music director, conducted a programme of contemporary pieces, unnecessarily prefaced by Britten. Barry Guy's After the Rain here sounded angrier, more agitated than on the orchestra's recording; while John Tavener's Agraphon was both serene and fiery, soprano Patricia Rozario encompassing the quasi-Levantine lines with expressive ease. In between, Minna Keal's Cello Concerto juxtaposed broad lyricism and pained agitation. If orchestral textures seemed thick, sometimes almost impenetrable, Alexander Baillie's cello managed to clear a way for itself.
"Playing in the New" reached its climax on Sunday with a programme of no less than four premieres (to be broadcast by Radio 3, 18 October). Simon Speare's New Ribbons, chosen from submissions to the Society for the Promotion of New Music, proved to be a brassily exuberant concert overture, or theme tune perhaps. Skilfully layered, neatly tailored, it did what it needed to do in five minutes, then stopped. If only all new music were so concise. By contrast Diana Burrell's Dunkelhvide Manestraler, with soloists Catherine Wyn-Rogers (contralto) and Nicholas Daniels (cor anglais) felt protracted, in part no doubt because Burrell chose to set Tove Ditlevsen's original Danish, a sure barrier to communication.
No such problems with Tavener's The Hidden Face, a stark confrontation, observed from the back of the stage by whispering strings, between oboe (Nicholas Daniels again, in snake-charmer mode) and counter-tenor Michael Chance, called on to produce eerie microtones. Unmoved by Tavener's demand that we "cast off all the received, intellectual, sophisticated garbage", I found the piece almost operatic. With the composer himself in among the double basses, occasionally helping out with conducting duties, Barry Guy's Fallingwater was a glittering orchestral kaleidoscope, according the players a measure of freedom within a rigorously controlled structure. Its procedures were complex, but it communicated readily, and brought the weekend to a fitting close
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 2 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 3 Robert Mugabe eats a zoo for 'obscene' 91st birthday party
- 4 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 5 The jihadi girls who went to Syria weren't just radicalised by Isis — they were groomed
Alien 5: Sigourney Weaver will reprise Ripley role in new movie, says director Neill Blomkamp
Broadchurch series 3: David Tennant and Olivia Colman to return for third season, ITV confirms
EastEnders may bring transgender character to Albert Square to challenge 'traditional' viewers
James Bond: Director Sam Mendes teases clips from upcoming 007 film Spectre
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'