MUSIC / Nash Ensemble - 20th Century Music Series; Purcell Room, South Bank

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
Yeats, the tone-deaf poet, and Mark-Anthony Turnage, musical poet of urban alienation but also of more tender feelings often tinged with despair, meet in Her Anxiety, three succinct, late texts that form an honest, ruthless meditation on love, possession and age. Short, crisp verse-lines emphasise Turnage's instinctive sense of cadence. Scored for soprano and small ensemble, and premiered on Tuesday at the Nash Ensemble's first IBM 20th-century concert alongside the London premiere of Dutilleux's Diptyque - Les citations, the music showed how subtly Turnage reaches these points of relative repose through cunning reversals of accent. Wedded to a pliant, sustained vocal line they become a powerful tool for reflecting the stresses and inflections of the language.

Being Turnage, moments of unusual blend and colour were to be expected. The lesson was in the pacing and balance of formal parts. The second poem, set for for Eileen Hulse unaccompanied, was followed by a purely instrumental movement leading to the acquiescence of the final, title song; the impression was of weight and substance far greater than suggested by the work's brief duration.

This was equally true of Webern's slimmed-down version of Schoenberg's First Chamber Symphony, concluding the evening in a momentous, virtuoso performance. The first half had included Debussy's late G minor trio sonata and Stravinsky's songs; the two poems by Balmont quirky in places, but the Three Japanese Lyrics full of greater things.