Guildhall Symphonic Wind Ensemble / Reynish, Barbican, London
Friday 28 October 2005
They certainly chose a taxing opener to their latest programme. Tippett devised his Concerto for Orchestra (1963) to challenge the LSO in its most virtuoso phase. Its first movement, entitled Mosaic when performed separately, is a shifting collage of nine sub- groupings, each with its own material. Hardly surprising if his squiggling part-writing for clarinets or tuba brought the odd fluff on this occasion. But the standard, not to say stamina, of the playing in the rest of the concert were impressive.
Two recent items by Michael Berkeley came next: a short, tart scherzo entitled Shooting Stars in its first London hearing, and the premiere of Slow Dawn, a substantial dark processional with a more fiercely active central section. Tightly articulated and full of imposingly dissonant textures, these pieces not only formed a cohesive diptych, but could convincingly take their place in a larger structure, even a Symphony for Wind Instruments.
Then there were two concertante items. An effective, if not very personal, mini-saxophone concerto entitled Restless Birds before the Dark Moon, by the American composer David Kechley, enclosed a sentimental centre between busy minimalist outer sections; John Harle was the stentorian soloist. Adam Gorb's Elements, with the ace percussionist Richard Benjafield, proved longer and more problematic: full of attractive sonorous trouvailles, but curiously unfocused in style, and seeming to be on the point of ending many times before it actually did.
The concert culminated in Magnus Lindberg's now almost classic Gran Duo, with its pair of interlocking ensembles ricocheting massive chordal progressions and florid Gabrieli-esque apostrophes back and forth.
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