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A roaring flame Corrado Canonici double-bass with Sarah Leonard soprano and Anton Lukoszevieze cello, with launch recitals at King's College and Italian Institute, London, 6 & 8 April 2004

Oliver Knussen: Turba
Diana Burrell: Song for Harvey
Nicholas Maw: The old king's lament
Christopher Fox: Generic Compositions #5 and #8 for
cello & double bass
Roger Redgate: Ruins true refuge
Robert Keeley: Refacings
James Dillon: A roaring flame for soprano & double bass
Michael Finnissy: Sepevi
Bernard Rands: Memo 1 for amplified bass & electronics

NMC D079   [TT: 61'33"]

The title work, the longest in this selection by Italian bassist-extraordinaire, concert agent and rock manager Corrado Canonici, is a 12 min dialogue for "female voice" and double bass, in which Sarah Leonard, a real trouper - game for anything - sings in inscrutable Gaelic & Provencal and sounds like a counter-tenor, eliminating vibrato totally and all traces of femininity. It would suit Dominique Visse? James Dillon explains that his piece is organised "with pitch generated via 'sieves' into grids, statistically distributed within restricted teleologies"....

The music was deliberately chosen to feature 'all kinds of compositional trends', to show how varied is new music in Britain today. Diana Burrell's Song for Harvey is transposed from a viola piece she wrote to play herself at a party; Maw's The old king's lament was the set piece for the first Isle of Man competition in 1982. Fox's two Generic Compositions are played simultaneously. Rands has amplification controlled by a foot pedal. There is an early Knussen solo and one by Finnissy with one of his purposely oblique 'explanatory' notes. The others are by composers that Canonicic has known since settling in London 1997.

Corrado Canonici believes that 'a recording should not be too long' and apologises that time limitations forced exclusion of some composers he holds dear. This is rather mysterious, since everyone programmes their own CD listening - I rarely play a disc straight through - and CDs often accommodate most of 80 minutes music nowadays. Nonetheless, this is a good demonstration of innovation in Britain and the scope of the double-bass for experimental composers. The physicality of the double-bass, stretched to its limits, comes across well on this CD.

Some of these were played at NMC's well-attended launch concert at King's College, which also included a notable premiere, Gubaidulina's Sonata for double bass and piano. A second free concert is tomorrow at London's Italian Institute, with an attractive programme of Italian and British music for double bass and violin.

"Dialogo" Caroline Balding violin  Corrado Canonici double-bass Italian Cultural Institute (39 Belgrave Sq SW1) 8 April 2004 7pm   Admission FREE
Two leading contemporary music performers of the London scene present an exciting concert featuring the UK premiere of a solo bass work by Ennio Morricone, a rare piece by Luciano Berio, new compositions by Ian Moore and Christopher Fox, plus works by Bruno Maderna, Virgilio Mortari, Martin. Butler and Giacinto Scelsi.

© Peter Grahame Woolf