MUSIC / Making an exhibition of itself: Stephen Johnson visits Aldeburgh

WHY DOES 'well-presented' sound like veiled criticism? Peter Paul Nash's concert of his own and others' music at Aldeburgh was extremely well-presented: scripted links full of penetrating observations, professionally delivered, and music juxtaposed in ways that threw unexpected lights in all directions.

Per Norgard's Remembering and the C sharp minor Fugue from Book I of Bach's Well-tempered Klavier was a brilliant juxtaposition, not just for the reasons Nash outlined, but because the Norgard seemed to transform itself into a commentary on the Bach; there were even echoes of motifs and progressions. It isn't often that a concert programme works like an imaginatively devised exhibition, but this was a good case.

And what of the central exhibit, Nash himself? To describe the musical personality as complicated would be putting it mildly. At times one senses allusive systems - references, riddles, possibly codes - of almost Joycean complexity. But Nash is not by any means a purely literary composer: he has a superb and apparently natural technique, and the games- playing does seem to be essentially musical, a kind of super-selfconscious Haydn perhaps. And there at the head of the programme was Ravel's hardly less allusive Minuet on the name of Haydn to point the comparison.

Sometimes the references are baffling - why does the sea-shanty 'Shaller Brown' materialise towards the end of Nash's String Quartet No 2? The joke (one senses black humour somewhere in the background) remains perversely private. But the Ravel reference in the closing section of In a Walled Garden sets in motion something more direct: a chain of distorted quotations and half-quotations that build to a real emotional catharsis - and yet how typical of Nash to pull the rug from under his own feet after such a moment of near self-revelation. There are sudden gusts of confessional warmth in both those works, but violence is never far away - the honey always contains powdered glass.

The soprano Sarah Leonard responded magnificently to the interpretative challenges posed by In a Walled Garden and the much earlier, Pierrot-like Terrace; the Brindisi String Quartet gave every impression of being initiated in the secrets of the Second Quartet, and Rolf Hind gave exceptionally beautiful performances of the Bach Fugue, Norgard's Remembering and Sibelius's Sonatina in F sharp minor.

Contrast with the music of Toru Takemitsu, whose Archipeligo S. was premiered at the Maltings in Snape by Oliver Knussen and the London Sinfonietta the previous evening, was extreme. Sometimes one suspects that Takemitsu has one continuous piece of music going on in his head - like an endless roll of sonic wallpaper - and that from time to time he simply cuts himself another piece. And yet the results can be so shamefully pleasant. Archipeligo S. often invokes - or simply imitates - the gentler Debussy or Messiaen, but the results seem to come from another world, without conflict or purpose, which it is surprisingly easy to enter and enjoy - for a while at least.

Archipeligo S. followed a revival of Alexander Goehr's Piano Concerto, completed and first performed in 1972. This is transitional work par excellence. The solo piano part points increasingly towards the rich new vein Goehr has tapped in more recent years, especially at the beginning of the second movement. Here he evolved a style which unironically invokes Chopin and even Brahms, yet remains lucidly original. Peter Serkin played it beautifully.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
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.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower