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.
Music Why this music festival is still the place to spot the next big thing
Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Germanwings crash: Police make 'significant discovery' at home of co-pilot Andreas Lubitz
- 2 Germanwings captain Patrick Sondenheimer tried to break into locked cockpit door 'with an axe' as plane was descending
- 3 Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
- 4 The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
- 5 #FreeTheNipple: Women in Iceland bare breasts in solidarity with trolled student
Jeremy Clarkson courted by Russian Ministry of Defence TV station to present motoring show
One Direction fans campaign to buy the band after Zayn Malik quits
A historian gave the most British look of despair when someone screwed up Richard III's birthday at his reburial
Kay Burley 'bias' against Ed Miliband prompts 130 complaints to Ofcom
Zayn Malik already working on solo material, just days after quitting One Direction
Nigel Farage brands LGBT activists 'filth' and 'scum' and accuses them of scaring away his children after they invade his local pub
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
JK Rowling responds to fan tweeting she 'can't see' Dumbledore being gay
Russia threatens Denmark with nuclear weapons if it tries to join Nato defence shield
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Germanwings plane crash live: Andreas Guenter Lubitz intentionally crashed flight 9525 into the Alps in act of mass murder and suicide – latest