Visual Music Week, Tate, St Ives

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The Independent Culture

Saturday in St Ives was a benign occasion. Fears associated with the date - 11 September - seemed far removed.

Saturday in St Ives was a benign occasion. Fears associated with the date - 11 September - seemed far removed. Instead, Tate St Ives' first Visual Music Week was coming to a sober end, after an exhaustive and exhausting few days filled with concerts, walk-abouts and a study day devoted to relationships between the visual arts and music.

That, of course, is a vast subject, and the three organisers, the composer Douglas Young, the art historian Simon Shaw-Miller and the violinist Peter Sheppard Skærved, may not have seen eye to eye in their interpretation of the event. Was it about crossover? Was it about similarities and dissimilarities in working practices? Was it about tempting non-musicians to savour musical morsels? Or was it about drawing in locals to a Tate St Ives event that seemed closely to resemble a standard music festival set in a visually artistic environment?

Thirteen musical events were packed into four days, the galleries of Tate St Ives and the beautiful parish church serving as exquisite venues. Many of the works, however, seemed presented with the flimsiest of connections to the visual world other than the obvious, such as how a violin can be regarded as sculpture. This "revelatory" remark was made by Skærved in light of the looming, burnt wooden sculptures of David Nash currently inhabiting the Tate. But Skærved had gathered around him a remarkable group of young musicians, not least the astonishing cellist, Beate Altenburg, to perform a vast repertoire of far from conventional work and show off their formidable skills.

The final concert was billed to link Paul Klee, Stravinsky, Ravel and David Nash. But it also included music by three other composers: Priaulx Rainier, Jeremy Dale Roberts and Douglas Young. Rainier (1903-86) was a close friend of the St Ives sculptor Barbara Hepworth, and it is sad that her music has disappeared from view. Movements from her Suite for Clarinet and Piano (1943), played by Roger Heaton and Douglas Young, revealed her clarity of thought and expression. Her 1939 String Quartet, played earlier in the week by the Kreutzer Quartet, was a revelation, astonishingly prescient of Kevin Volans's work.

Dale Roberts's Croquis, a series of short movements for string trio, demonstrated the aridity of late-Seventies composition, while Young's Mr Klee Visits the Botanical Garden, also a multi-movement work for string quartet, contained charming and disarming moments recalling the English simplicity of Howard Skempton.

The Danish flautist Janne Thomsen gave a ravishing performance of Debussy's Syrinx, a somewhat overcrowded concert ending with Ravel's fiendish Sonata for Violin and Cello played by Skærved and Neil Heyde. Overall, a highly memorable event.

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