Medici String Quartet, St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe. Chamber Domaine, St Andrew Holborn, London
Wednesday 10 July 2002
One of the delights of the City of London Festival has always been the opportunities it gives for visiting attractive city venues that are rarely open to the general public. This year's Angel Series, introduced in an earlier review, toured 12 Wren churches; some extensively renovated, at least one larger one a little problematic acoustically. Yet all those I entered proved to be conducive spaces for listening to music.
The Angel Series offered art and poetry too. At every concert, one of the angel paintings by the talented Croatian artist Dragan Andjelic was displayed. These 12 imposing wooden icons, originally made for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, have also been on view collectively – together with illustrations in progress for 12 telling poems specially written for the series by Gwyneth Lewis – at St Edmund, King and Martyr, where Andjelic has also been busy with workshops. Lewis's poetry was read aloud at some of the recitals.
As for the music itself, Chamber Domaine's performances of quartets by Beethoven and Shostakovich lacked much penetration and were further blunted by the size of St Andrew Holborn. Judith Bingham's My Father's Arms – new settings of three poems by Martin Shaw on "the dark side of childhood" for soprano (Helen Meyerhoff, offering a nice, pure tone but poor diction) and string trio – was uncharacteristically leaden and derivative.
By contrast, the Medici Quartet's recital, in the smart, woodily renovated space of the evocatively named St Andrew-by-the-Wardrobe, combined the London premiere of Nigel Osborne's Medicinal Songs and Dances and Shostakovich's Fifteenth Quartet with almost perfect results. It's good to see Osborne, a rare, idiosyncratic and provocative talent, back on the music scene again, though the social commitment that has kept him so much away from it – working in Bosnia in music education, and much else besides – continues.
Medicinal Songs and Dances "contemplates the healing power of music" in a sequence of eight movements lasting half an hour. These accumulate slow ruminations with modal tendencies (several featuring a solo cello), extensive use of quarter-tones, harmonics and other so-called "extended" techniques, fragmentary atonal utterances, and many other elements, to create one of the most moving musical experiences I have had in a long time. Osborne's essential optimism contrasted perfectly with Shostakovich's bleak vision, but made a perfect counterpart to it. The Medicis played throughout with marvellous control, but even more impressive generosity of spirit.
The Angel Series continues on BBC Radio 3 until 12 July
Watch the new House of Cards series three trailerTV
Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards
Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Home Office says Nigerian asylum-seeker can’t be a lesbian as she’s got children
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 4 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 5 Apple and Google users being spied on for a decade because of 'Freak' security flaw
Kurt Cobain's life and death: Montage of Heck film uses unseen footage to tell Nirvana frontman's story
Mal Peet dead at 67: Tributes to children's author who was 'universally adored'
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Jimmy McGovern's new TV series 'Banished': Why Australia's past has such resonance today
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'