Nash Ensemble/Richard Rodney Bennett, Wigmore Hall
Thursday 24 March 2011
Three classical premieres followed by a jazz bash for Britain’s most prolific crossover-composer: thus does the Nash Ensemble celebrate the 75th birthday of one of its most successful sons. Where would British music have been without the Nash? Artistically poorer, for since its foundation in 1964, this world-beating ensemble has commissioned 160 new works, including major ones by Elliot Carter, Harrison Birtwistle, Mark-Anthony Turnage, plus a catalogue of other now-prominent composers.
This concert opened with Debussy’s ‘Syrinx’ for solo flute, a miniature which gently took on the argument from his more famous flute solo in the ‘Prelude a l’apres-midi’. This segued straight into Richard Rodney Bennett’s ‘Sonata for flute, viola, and harp’ which had been inspired by ‘Syrinx’: flautist Philippa Davies led the way through its gracefully expanding sound-world.
The first premiere was Simon Holt’s ‘The Torturer’s Horse for string sextet’. Its title refers to an Auden poem, and its import is ‘how real, tragic events are happening all around us, but normal life carries on regardless’; it also came with a note that Holt had been inspired by Poussin’s ‘Landscape with a man killed by a snake’. That may have fired his imagination, but the resultant music’s internal drama – all clashing colours and textures - needed no such external crutch.
Then came premieres from two new-music veterans, both in spirited form. David Matthews had dedicated his ‘Horn Quintet for horn and string quartet’ to his mentor Nicholas Maw, but the mellow warmth of its slow movement was closer to Bartok; horn-player Richard Watkins - with his cellist brother Paul at his side - brought a pliant virtuosity to the fast movement.
Michael Berkeley’s ‘Three Rilke Sonnets’ came with a commentary informing us that ‘recent hearing problems’ had led him to ‘a more economic use of notes’, but his music has benefited enormously from this constriction. Soprano Claire Booth was the superb soloist, her lead being followed in turn by viola, harp, horn, and bass flute: faithfully illuminating Rilke’s ethereal and allusive poetry, Berkeley’s brightly-coloured work sounded like a new-minted classic.
After a Turnage song-cycle which works no better now than it did when first unveiled, it was party time, with Richard Rodney Bennett and his old friend Claire Martin giving us Gershwin, Cole Porter et al. Bravo.
TV reviewGrace Dent: Jimmy McGovern's new drama sheds light on sex slavery in the colonies
Eurovision 2015Australian Idol winner unveiled as representative Down Under
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Tourist films plane's descent just metres above packed Caribbean beach
- 2 Kate Moss: Previously unpublished nude photo revealed by Mert and Marcus
- 3 Indian woman creates 'Marriage CV' after parents put her on dating site: 'Definitely not marriage material. Won’t grow long hair, ever'
- 4 World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
- 5 Bad Jews poster 'censored' on London Tube
The 9 rules every Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoon had to follow are wonderfully pedantic
Toy Story 4: Pixar promises a romcom storyline 'separate' from the much-loved trilogy
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Bad Jews poster 'censored' on London Tube
World Book Day: Boy 'excluded' from school after dressing up as Fifty Shades' Christian Grey
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Elif Shafak: Turkish author warns against rise of British nationalism
Most people think legal tax avoidance is just as wrong as illegal tax evasion, poll suggests
Nigel Farage promises Ukip will not 'stigmatise' would-be migrants – and says he wants 'everyone to speak the same language'