Nicolas Hodges, Christian Dierstein, Andrew Watts, Helen Tunstall, Melinda Maxwell, Kings Place, London

2.00

 

It was goods-in-the-window time for the House of Birtwistle at Kings Place. On our way down through the bowels of this temple to commerce and culture, we passed the premiere of a portrait exhibition by Adam Birtwistle, before arriving in the auditorium for a concert of pieces d’occasion by his father Sir Harrison, some to be played by the musicians for whom they were composed.

The linchpin was Sir Harry’s pianist-of-choice Nicolas Hodges, who began with ‘Saraband: The Kings Farewell’, in which harmonic and rhythmic games are played with the basic pattern of that dance. The piece was short and skeletal, with the merest hint of lyricism, but Hodges’ fastidious voicing of the hands’ contrasting textures was a pleasure in itself.

Then he played ‘Ostinato with Melody’. ‘Not a piece which speaks loudly, but it has a lot to say,’ was his comment in the programme, and the pared-down melody over a wandering bass did indeed have an austere eloquence as the two lines pursued their parallel but only occasionally synchronised courses.

As it puttered to a halt the piece was oddly reminiscent of Ligeti’s celebrated ‘Poeme symphonique’ for a hundred ticking metronomes: whereas Ligeti had achieved his effect through pure randomness, Birtwistle’s closing effect was minutely calculated – yet both struck the innocent ear as essentially the same.

Then came ‘Orpheus Elegies’ in which selected fragments of Rilke’s sonnet-sequence were filtered through the combination of Melinda Maxwell’s oboe, Helen Tunstall’s harp, and Andrew Watts’s extraordinary countertenor voice.

The gnomic quality of the literary content was of a piece with the music, in which Watts’s burning intensity periodically lit up the silences in a determinedly desolate instrumental landscape. The mobile which started ringing in the wings may have left the musicians confused, but it raised a laugh from the auditorium, suggestive of relief that the work’s provocatively po-faced solemnity had been punctured.

The toccata-like ‘Gigue machine’ had been written to show off Hodges’ talents, and it did that (if nothing else), but with ‘The Axe Manual’ this remarkable pianist was joined by percussionist Christian Dierstein for a crazy collaboration in which Birtwistle’s orchestral talents were brilliantly bodied forth.

The collected works of Birtwistle fils suggest a painter imprisoned his own rigid format: with Birtwistle pere, one senses that beneath the parsimonious surface the ideas are still teeming.

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam