MUSIC / Birmingham Contemporary Music Group - Adrian Boult Hall, Birmingham

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The Independent Culture
Strange to imagine that a group founded as recently as 1987 should be in a position to have a retrospective, but the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group's concert on Saturday night felt just like that.

None of the five works presented was written before 1982, three were commissions from previous BCMG series and the remaining item was a premiere. Not only does this go to show that there is life after a first performance, but it proves that BCMG is a group which is prepared to stand by its man.

Repeat performances saw perspectives shifting as well as some reinforcement to initial reactions. A second hearing of Colin Matthews' Hidden Variables was both bracing and revealing. Behind the references to a regiment of minimalists seemed to lurk the shadow of Birtwistle. Woolrich's Lending Wings also came up well though Simon Holt's Lilith offered more food for the ear: an ear-catching and elegant work which cheers as well as engages.

In coherent performances under Nicholas Cleobury, with some dazzling clarinet and trumpet solos, the stage was well set for a successful premiere. Sadly Gordon McPherson's Heh]Voltaire] left a mixed impression: it seems a relentlessly monochrome work alongside Holt and Matthews, crunching away at its quasi-programmatic theme with grim determination. Some of the gestures are winning, but the whole overwhelms rather than grips the ear.

Nevertheless, BCMG is good at second performances and doubtless there will be a chance to hear Heh]Voltaire] again.