MUSIC / And not a heckler in earshot: Jan Smaczny reviews Turnage, Knussen and Bruckner in Birmingham

Feathers may have flown at Covent Garden over Birtwistle and poor Gawain, in Birmingham, however, contemporary music tends to foster happy consensus.

A case in point was the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group's weekend-long Knussen and Turnage experience in the Adrian Boult Hall. Paired like that, the names sound as cosy as a firm of provincial solicitors, but their music can wound as well as comfort.

If the audiences did not stretch the capacity of the hall, there was little sense of antagonism towards an event that revealed rather more about the nature of contemporary British music than the fulminations of the pundits.

In company with Turnage, Knussen emerged, especially in the vocal setting Ocean de Terre, as coldly impressive: music to admire rather than love. His instrumental textures in Ocean, as in the more recent Songs without Voices, always fascinate, drawing the ear down unexpected paths.

Set in stark juxtaposition to the graphic appeal of Turnage's Greek Suite and the cello concerto, Kai, Knussen's sophisticated palette can seem strangely pallid. Comparisons can be misleading, but Turnage's remarkable ear and technique never get in the way of the presentation of ideas. The gem of the weekend's more conventional evenings was music from Turnage's opera, Greek, in a passionate performance by Fiona Kimm and Quentin Hayes superbly directed by Knussen.

Still more illuminating was Saturday's concert given by the Creative Jazz Orchestra under Mike Gibbs. The conductor's experimental treatment of Turnage's Her Anxiety and Release went straight to the heart of the composer's debt to jazz. Indeed, Turnage's fascination with the jazz idiom came over far more clearly than in Gibbs's own, gently romantic To Lady Mac: In Memory. Better still was the performance itself: this is a group that feels the lines rather than counting the bars.

BCMG was out again the following week with the premiere of Sonata da caccia for harpsichord, oboe and horn by Thomas Ades - a combination Debussy once hoped to exploit - commissioned by BBC Pebble Mill.

This work must have been balm to the souls of the anti- modernists. Beginning with a flurry of Couperinesque figures, the piece groped its way towards a more individual profile via clear, tonal gestures and a somewhat irritating 'Bach goes to townish' episode. But, pace the polemicists, a little irritation is a small price to pay for variety.

Comparison was in the air again with the arrival of the Leipzig Gewandhaus's performance of Bruckner's Seventh in Symphony Hall on Saturday. The CBSO had performed the same piece a couple of days before, and, in a reciprocal visit celebrating the links between Birmingham and Leipzig, will shortly take it to Leipzig.

The Gewandhaus orchestra, of course, has this music in its bones and, however much Kurt Masur pulled around the tempos, neither performers nor conductor lost sight of the span of the whole.

Rattle and the CBSO had projected a completely different view. Caressing every phrase in their best Mahlerian manner, the detail was a delight, but a clear outline refused to materialise.

Their Bruckner may not satisfy the Germans, but their electrifying performance of Tippett's Fourth can only do good things for international relations.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone