MUSIC / Balanescu Quartet: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

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The Independent Culture
The Serious Speakout promotion people pulled their crossover following in for the Balanescus. Monday night, however, was a shambles, with two intervals a few minutes apart, offhand announcements of changes, and the wrecking of a new Gavin Bryars piece for recorded voice and string quartet. One short movement, then a long pause, and the regrets: it was, of course, the wrong kind of tape.

A Man in a Room Gambling was conceived as late-night radio. Juan Munoz recited card-sharper's tricks, Bryars supplied long, passionately sad lyrical lines. Here, the intended 'enquiry into the nature of deception' hardly got going. Things were brighter otherwise. Michael Torke's Chalk put its basic material to vigorous, complex and harmonically driven use (Beethoven encountering Stravinsky) - a little more surface signposting and this sharp-minded composer, belying a glitzy reputation, might re- invent the Classical style.

Two pieces by David Byrne sounded amiable but cautious; two by Alexander Balanescu amiable and reckless, but too tight for guest drummer Steve Arguelles to take flight. People say Balanescu's music is like Michael Nyman's. Really it is the other way around: the Nyman sound feeds off the gypsy- like intensity and microtonal inflections of Balanescu's violin- playing. Balanescu's composing admits charm and spontaneous melodic feeling, and that softens it: the mean, relentless streak gives Nyman his infuriating stature.