Africa Weekend, Bridgewater Hall, Manchester / Ensemble 10/10 / BBC Philharmonic, RNCM / Studio 7, Manchester

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The Independent Culture

Jegede is an accomplished musician, rooted in both African and European classical music. But the forces at his disposal, or perhaps the weight of a BBC commission, to pertinent words by the poet SuAndi marking the 60th anniversary of Manchester's Pan-African Conference, seemed to swamp his imagination as a composer.

In The Calling, the BBC Philharmonic ended up providing a mundane backing for a melting-pot of jazz, Malian and opera vocals, with a small solo group of exotic African instruments, joined roughly together by some strangely unengaging narration. Overhead projections and a couple of dancers, whose edgy exchanges presumably contained some veiled political agenda, added little.

Hot on the heels of this jamboree came a celebration of the music of the Georgian composer Giya Kancheli, Sounds from Silence. Surprisingly, given the cult following evident in the popularity of his recordings on ECM, this was the largest-ever celebration of his music in Britain.

Kancheli is apparently terrified that audiences will fall asleep listening to his music, much of which is quiet and slow. Despite the soporific title, it was impossible to nod off during "Night Prayers" while being assaulted by John Helliwell's impressively demonic playing on soprano saxophone, "shaken by the madness of dreams". The highly committed Ensemble 10/10 under Clark Rundell contributed a nightmarish intensity of colour.

More sounds from afar opened the BBC Philharmonic's programme later in the week, conducted by James MacMillan. In Kancheli's Third Symphony, David James' haunting countertenor tones emer-ged as if from the remotest reaches of the Caucasus.

In the anguished Fifth Symphony, the quirky "A Little Daneliad" stood out, for all its slightness. Its ticking strings, tinkling percussion, solo violin, spoken interjections and melodic snatches perfectly conjured the short film which they cry out to illustrate.

The Kancheli concerts are broadcast on Radio 3 tomorrow (BBC Philharmonic) and Saturday (Ensemble 10/10)