Proms 35/36, Karabits/Bournemouth SO/Reich/Synergy Vocals/Ensemble Modern, Royal Albert Hall (4/5, 5/5)
Thursday 11 August 2011
There could be no better way of celebrating Steve Reich’s 75th birthday than with a performance of his ‘Music for 18 Musicians’, and the packed hall for this late-night Prom testified to the size and devotion of his fan-club. This is a work for which ‘ground-breaking’ really is the mot juste, yet although it has earned Reich the title ‘founding father of minimalism’, he himself regards it as leaving minimalism far behind.
Its structure is at once pellucid and dizzily complex: Reich says he’s happy if people simply enjoy it, without knowing precisely what polyphonic patterns are being developed. Eleven chords from clarinets and singers announce the start, after which a short piece is built on each chord in turn.
One of the key influences behind this work was the twelfth-century polyphony of the Parisian composer Perotin, whose elaborate extensions of melody here got their twenty-first century answer as Synergy Vocals negotiated Reich’s intricate score. Another influence was Balinese gamelan, partly through its textures, and partly thanks to the way its drummers give the rest of the players their cue. Here the cues came from Rainer Romer’s vibraphone, heralding each harmonic change with bell-like chords: the mallet-instrument ensemble – marimbas, xylophones, and pianos (at one of which Reich officiated in his trademark baseball cap) – created brilliant effects and justified Paul Griffiths’ felicitous observation in the programme that the whole thing is essentially a joy machine. Meanwhile Reich and Romer had opened the concert with a performance of ‘Clapping Music’, a five-minute rhythmic cycle which they completed with the precision of a mathematical QED, and guitarist Mats Bergstrom had interacted with 14 recorded guitars in ‘Electric Counterpoint’.
The early-evening Prom was just as successful, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra under Kirill Karabits delivering Rachmaninov’s Symphony No 2, Liszt’s symphonic poem ‘Mazeppa’, and – with Ailish Tynan as the soloist – Gliere’s extraordinary ‘Concerto in F minor for coloratura soprano’. Gliere was by no means the first composer to have created a wordless work for a singer – Rachmaninov’s ‘Vocalise’ for voice and piano is the most famous example – but to match a soprano with a symphony orchestra, as this Russian composer did in the darkest days of the Second World War, was unprecedented. Deploying stunning operatic skills, Ailish Tynan brought the house down.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Al Pacino on suffering from depression: 'It can last and it's terrifying'
- 2 Half of young women unable to ‘locate vagina’ and 65% find it difficult to say the word
- 3 Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Scottish independence referendum: Franz Ferdinand, Mogwai and Frightened Rabbit to play in support of Yes campaign
Jessica Chastain demands Scarlett Johansson superhero movie from Marvel: 'To me it's a no brainer. Why is it taking so long?'
Downton Abbey series 5 start date revealed: Drama returns in late September
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
How to read Will Self: Unlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Ashya King: Parents of five-year-old boy refused permission to visit him in hospital and denied bail at Spanish court
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
When elitism grips the top of British society to this extent, there is only one answer: abolish private schools
Ashya King: 'Cruel NHS has not given us the treatment we need', says father of five-year-old with brain tumour who fled to Spain