David Lang / Peter Greenaway London Sinfonietta / Hempel, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

Wanting to commemorate the death of Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar (what kind of premium might he have commanded?) and wanting to stand out from the commemorative pack, Lloyds was lured towards "possibly one of the most ambitious collaborations ever undertaken between business and the arts". Oh, to have been a fly on the wall at the private premiere a month ago of David Lang and Peter Greenaway's Writing on Water.

Artistic collaborations are not made in heaven and one wonders how these two - the composer Lang and the film-maker Greenaway - ever came together. Lang is American, a minimalist composer, a founder member of the once-fashionable Bang on a Can. (The name was always the most distinctive feature). In Writing on Water, Lang has provided some of the most insipid music I've heard in years. There's nothing new or inspired, only tired old routines for an ensemble that daringly includes two electric guitars, brass percussion, piano and strings. A text sung by a male trio - a confection concocted by Greenaway from "sea" writers (Shakespeare, Coleridge and Melville) - was memorable for its inaudibility.

And it was to this that Greenaway added his wishy-washy visuals - split into many screens - of jumping cells (perhaps bubbles?), interminably stretching waves and other watery shots, handled "live": Greenaway appeared to poke at ascreen, selecting at whim from assembled pics.

Was it ironic (or something worse) that the London Sinfonietta - under Jurjen Hempel - then programmed a masterpiece by an ex-collaborator of Greenaway, Louis Andriessen? De Staat was written 30 years ago "as a contribution to the discussion about the place of music in politics". Plato feared the power of music - and in this blistering performance well he might. Where the previous work was flabby, Andriessen's scorched. Seldom have I heard the London Sinfonietta blaze so passionately, relishing the volume, colour, harmonic and rhythmic austerity of Andriessen's fiendish "muscular minimalism". A total triumph.