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BMIC Cutting Edge 2005

Fidelio Trio at The Warehouse, London 29 September

Salvatore Sciarrino - Piano Trio No 1 (UKP)
Laurence Crane - For Ros & Peter
Jonathan Powell - Vainglory (WP)
Joe Cutler - Archie (LP)
Michael Nyman - The Photography of Chance (EP)
Jonathan Harvey - Piano Trio
Beat Furrer - Retour an Dich (UKP)
Bill Campbell - Kashmir (Led Zeppelin) (WP)
Rowland Sutherland - One for Hermeto (WP)
Andrew Poppy - Revolution (Lennon/McCartney) (WP)
John B Hedges - I Am the Walrus (Lennon/McCartney) (WP)

Something akin to Matthew Barley's presentation flair would have lightened the atmosphere at The Warehouse. The composers featured (several of them present) may be inarticulate orally, but members of the trio aren't (c.f. their series at Wilton's Music Hal l) and it would have been good to have something from them, some clues about how we might approach the very different pieces they coped with so easily.  

The composers' notes were mostly unhelpful for 'ordinary listeners' or else flippanjt - "I think I wrote it in 1996, but I'm not sure" & "I think it needs personality, so I called it Archie ". There were 11 items, so various in idiom and aesthetic that it is inconceivable that many in the packed, knowing audience enjoyed them all, but they were applauded politely and fairly equally. Occasional old fashioned 'new music booing' countered bystanding ovations would liven the scene?

I liked best Sciarrino's Piano Trio - high energy with coruscating piano textures sometimes embracing harp-like flourishes against more austere strings mostly offering harmonics, and Furrer's trio which brought to mind Webern and Lachenmann, riveting audience attention. Harvey's early (1971) trio was impressive, although less ingratiating than his later music. I departed before the items sourced from Led Zeppelin and the Beatles, which will have brightened the atmosphere, no doubt.



Trio Fibonacci The Warehouse 3 November

James Clarke - Piano Trio
Gerald Barry - In the Asylum
Pascal Dusapin - Trio Rombach
Mark-Anthony Turnage - A Short Procession
Michael Nyman - Yellow Beach
Laurie Radford - Pourriez-vous être le couteau dans ma vie? (WP)

Julie-Anne Derome: violin
Gabriel Prynn: cello
André Ristic: piano

A truly memorable evening at the Warehouse featured superb playing by this Canadian trio. The level of commitment and the virtuosity of the players was evident in every bar and the musicians combined in a way that only a first class chamber ensemble can.

Although the above programme was the one advertised on the website, Trio Fibonacci started their programme with Michael Finnissy's Independence Quadrille, an excellent choice to start a programme for a trio as each musician is given space in which to breathe before a final recombination. The other highlight of the four work first half was the James Clarke Piano Trio. This is a rigorous, serious work overlapping glissandi and edgy, distorted string sounds and the impact is to create the sense of a journey taken with some trepidation and uneasiness.

I found Mark-Anthony Turnage's A Short Procession , a farewell, funereal piece dedicated to two female friends, and with a distinctly Irish feel, deeply moving.

The evening finished with a premiere of a piece by Laurie Radford that placed huge demands on the players and combined the playing of the trio with various electronic techniques. The piece was a complete success as one entered a sound world in which time and space were challenged in a way that was difficult to precisely define.

Trio Fibonacci have produced a CD featuring some of the music from this concert
Independence Quadrilles
. Of particular interest are the pieces by James Clarke (see www.nmcrec.co.uk)

Mark Dennis

Music and Text The Warehouse, 10th November 2005


RICHARD BARRETT - interference
HANS EISLER - Hollywood Elegies
IAN PACE - "...quasi una fantasmagoria Op. 120 No. 2....."
PHILIP CLARK - All The Rage (World Premiere)
DAVE SMITH - The Palestinian Stone Child
FREDERIC RZEWSKI - Coming Together
With poetry readings by Ben Watson

IAN PACE - piano,

CARL ROSMAN - clarinet and voice
ALEX WARD - clarinet and guitar,
MARK KNOOP - piano
BEN WATSON - compere

A concert focussing on music and text and their communicability together, this was a frustrating event, very much one for London's new music in-group. Many of the words were either inaudible or incomprehensible or both; sometimes deliberately so!

Possibly all would become clearer with an opportunity to hear the recording which BMIC made of the event. Kate Westbrook's contribution ** gave me the greatest pleasure of the evening, in Eisler and Mike Westbrook etc., and from my seat at the back she was well balanced and all her words clear.

For text without music there were brief poems from Ben Watson, dense with imagery that was hard to grasp on first hearing by ear alone, and not obviously related to the musical context.

A rehearing of Ian Pace's "...quasi una fantasmagoria Op. 120 No. 2....." was welcome, with the composer himself intrigued to listen to a performmance with a different pianist (q.v. its premiere in 2002 when it was followed with the Brahms clarinet sonata itself, helping to make for a less indigestible concert). Carl Rosman's intentionally dead pan delivery of the text was off-putting; it might work better on radio or CD.

PHILIP CLARK has kindly let me see his text All the Rage, quotes from which (reprinted with permission) give something of the flavour of this duet between Kate Westbrook's (crystal clear) delivery and the seemingly inconsequential (but carefully scored, so I understand) contributions on guitar: - - This piece began with a thirty second guitar solo. Above the line ‘this piece began with a thirty second guitar solo' is an instruction to wait for thirty seconds, which I have just carried out. Alex and I both have six sheets of instructions that we will use to create this piece. Since I started thirty seconds later than Alex, the end of the piece will probably consist of my voice alone - - the composer of the present piece has no idea how he wants to combine music and text - - . So please beg his pardon.

• This is very much in the manner of the more accessible and entertaining piece in a similar genre - Tom Johnson's 'Failing'; listen on line to its enthusiastic reception!

No problem with Frederic Rzewski's political tract Coming Together; no-one could fail to have got all the words by one of the organizers of the Attica, New York prison riots, relentlessly repeated again and again: I think the combination of age and a greater coming together is responsible for the speed of the passing time. It's six months now, and I can tell you truthfully few periods in my life have passed so quickly. I am in excellent physical and emotional health. There are doubtless subtle surprises ahead, but I feel secure and ready...

The writer of the text was killed in the rioting. *

MICHAEL FINNISSY epitomised the alienation of the audience by having his text deliberately spoken so as to be mostly incomprehensible/inaudible; I gathered he was well satisfied with the performance.

Musical Pointers needs informed insiders to review this sort of concert. Any volunteers?

** See also a perceptive review by Frank Eichler

• Rzewski's Coming Together* is featured in an important CD, received since this concert, of mixed scores by this unique and challenging composer:

Eighth Blackbird : Fred (Music of Frederic Rzewski)
Cedille Records CDR 90000 084 (58 mins)
Pocket Symphony (2000) Les Moutons de Panurge (1969) Coming Together (1971/2003)

Coming Together (1971) is given here as arranged by Matt Albert (2000/2003) for his theatre-music chamber group Eighth Blackbird, in a far less austere and relentless form than that given at The Warehouse, where I heard it for the first time, but mounting to a hysterical climax.

Rzewski, in the interviews which form the liner notes, tells how he admired their theatricality in the new version, and also in the Pocket Symphony and "all of this sexual energy", with improvisation and silence. He also describes having noted down a tune near Paris which became elaborated ("not really rehearsed") into the Rabelais fable for performance in Amsterdam "with a real classical concert going on next door".

• For an overview of Frederic Rzewski's vast corpus of piano music, I recommend very strongly the boxed set of Piano Works (1975-1999) [Nonesuch 79623], which includes 36 miles of his accumulating journey The Road.

• Also, see review of his recital Rzewski plays Rzewski at the 2003 London Jazz Festival

Clark's All the Rage is very much in the manner of the more accessible and entertaining piece in a similar genre - Tom Johnson's 'Failing'; listen on line to its enthusiastic reception!