London Sinfonietta/Valade, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Monday 21 April 2008
At the outset, an Michael Finnissy array of percussion and electronics was to be seen, picked out in the fancy lighting that is now de rigueur for cutting-edge events in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. And the works, chosen for this London Sinfonietta bill by Julian Anderson and conducted by Pierre-André Valade, were sufficiently contrasting in provenance and sonorous imagery to justify the concert's title, Invented Worlds.
From Britain's own Michael Finnissy we heard Contretänze (1986), a 17-minute sequence made up of ornate, closely interwoven lines, successively spotlighting the flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, cello and percussion, and sounding like some drifting cloud of humming, stinging insects. It was more difficult, though, to discern the 18th-century forms that apparently underlay the structure.
The contrast with the next piece, a world premiere, could not have been more vivid. Embrace Me, by the 51-year-old Swedish composer Karen Renquist, was an attempt to exorcise the trauma of almost perishing with her entire family in the 2004 tsunami. Cast in the manner of a slow, Phrygian mode-steeped folk-dirge, with scraps of old Icelandic chanted by four voices from Synergy Vocals, the work certainly cast a dark spell – until its rather too literal evocation of the disaster at the end.
From the Swiss-born 50-year-old Michael Jarrell, we heard the UK premiere of a one-movement double bass concerto that proved, in its sophistication, quite different again. Entitled Droben schmettert ein greller Stein (for which the Sinfonietta's disgracefully uninformative programme notes provided no explanation), this evolved from the solo intonations of the Sinfonietta's lead bassist Enno Senft, in waves of multi-coloured sonority that were subtly enhanced by real-time electronics, to a solo fade-out of delicate pizzicato permutations.
And so to Iannis Xenakis's raucously joyous Jalons (1986), with its searing, distuned note-clusters for winds and loopy string glissandi, yielding occasionally to what sound like scraps of folksong, Balinese melody, or even a burst of Greek café music for harp: the whole thing squeaking and grinding along like a badly oiled machine. Xenakis dedicated it to Boulez, who evidently hated it, but it went down a bomb on this occasion.
Final Top Gear reviewTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michael Douglas regrets 'embarrassing' Catherine Zeta-Jones with oral sex comments
- 2 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 3 Tunisian builder has been hailed a hero after knocking gunman to the ground with roof tiles
- 4 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 5 E.L James's #AskELJames Twitter Q&A didn't go exactly as planned
Cara Delevingne attacks superhero movies as 'totally sexist' while praising Suicide Squad
Kanye West at Glastonbury 2015: 'He raps' - BBC subtitles team upstages Yeezy with hilarious description of lyrics
Glastonbury 2015: Lionel Richie attracts festival's biggest crowds for Sunday's 'dad slot'
Top Gear last episode review: A momentous occasion for Clarkson, Hammond and May fans
E.L James's #AskELJames Twitter Q&A didn't go exactly as planned
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Extend Right To Buy to tenants of private landlords, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn says
David Cameron struck double blow in his hopes to win Britain a new EU deal
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato