MUSIC / The generation game: Robert Maycock on the London Sinfonietta and Capricorn playing old new music and new new music

The trouble with 25th anniversaries is that the next generation has usually taken over. For the London Sinfonietta there's an unfortunate extra twist: it reaches its quarter-century just when, in the eyes of the world, the music it grew up with - never widely appreciated at the best of times - is passing into the realm of the deeply unloved. Can we still believe that in another few decades, listeners will 'catch up'? Hardly: the world of steady progress and advance that this assumes has been gone for years.

You don't have to applaud the changes, but too many in the new-music scene turn a blind eye. If times are worse, it isn't the London Sinfonietta's fault; but it has to react. Will it become a sort of museum for the music by Carter and Henze and Boulez that, pretty soon, few others will have the skill or the patience to play? Or will it plunge into a future for which its trusty chamber-orchestra format might not be the best-adapted means of survival? A bit of both, seems to be the answer from the last of its 'Happy Returns' series at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on Tuesday - an answer which dropped it neatly between two stools. Conducted energetically by Lothar Zagrosek, it played early-Eighties pieces by Witold Lutoslawski and Brian Ferneyhough with the glaring, almost surreal intensity and virtuosity that has long characterised its performances (and to be fair, Lutoslawski is a composer who inspires fondness more widely than most). Then came Michael Torke's Monday and Tuesday.

Here is one of the most formidably equipped and aggressively engaging composers of the generation that could be called post-minimal, or even post-rock. And post-Sinfonietta: the rasping, rotating bits of tune, punchy syncopations and added beats, relentless pace and abrasive harmonies, sit uneasily on so traditional a body of players. This commissioned piece is full of vigour and diversity, pulsing with rhythmic life; but the experience was like a genteel hybrid of Copland and Reich, the wind solos too cosy and the strings too sweet. The oddest idea was to write it in two movements that go through much the same processes at the same speed, using similar material and taking nearly the same time. Is this a built-in way of achieving that elusive second performance?

At the ICA, Adrian Jack's latest 'New MusICA' series ended on Sunday when the ensemble Capricorn, with its usual flair, played a mix of the fresh, the stale, and the incomprehensible from two generations formed in the musical scene of Cologne. Mauricio Kagel was the senior figure - still not much taken up in Britain, a fact which may explain the enthusiastic response to five recent pieces from an incomplete cycle called Die Stucke der Windrose. They are typical character pieces, full of whimsies and non sequiturs, elegantly wrought and sensitively scored. Imagine, say, a tango composed by Beethoven, taken through the looking-glass, deconstructed and then crushed, leaving a joke cadence as the players stare vacantly outwards: that, roughly, was the effect of the first.

But they give diminishing returns. Kagel operates on a not very subtle level of irony, lavishing his skill on side-effects; the jokes and fancies all merge. The best moment came in the second piece, working itself up to something like a scream, which at least sounded wholehearted. The concert's best moments, on the other hand, came with one of its two new commissions for piano quartet. Gerald Barry's music has long been a cause taken up by Jack: here too there is a layer of ironic detachment, but it is overwhelmed by a manic intensity of expression, often in gleeful dance rhythms driven by some raging demon.

This quartet was both frantic and extrovert, at least to start, with Irish melodic inflections pressed through close counterpoint and coming out like a warped variation on the scherzo in Beethoven's Archduke. Sections alternate rapidly and mechanically; there's a Stravinskian edge about the writing, recalling music by Kevin Volans. Later, quiet ideas filter through, softening (weakening?) the impact. Here, though, is a piece that captivates on many levels - unlike the dismal quartet by Walter Zimmermann, which went through all the motions, but off on some wavelength of its own I was not equipped to receive, quiet, continuous, dissonant, and ingrown.

Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
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
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
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.

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution