Home | Reviews | Articles | Festivals | Competitions | Other | Contact Us

Xenakis, Osborne & Schnittke

lannis Xenakis 1922-2001 Aroura (11 ')
Nigel Osborne b.1948 Taw-Raw (7')
Alfred Schnittke 1934-1998 Concerto Grosso No.1 (29')

Royal Academy of Music Soloists
Clio Gould violin, director
Maria Oldak violin
Marta Deak violin
Alissa Firsova prepared piano, harpsichord

Spitalfields Festival, Shoreditch Church 6.30 - 7.30 p.m. 14 June 2007

A strong programme of ground breaking music from from the '70s which well deserved revival. Glad though I was to hear again Xenakis, with his palette of clusters, glissandi, fierce bursts of pizzicato and chattering with the wood of the bow, it somehow seemed a little tired and dated, without the freshness of novelty which did, predictably, earn it a warm reception from the small audience, forty or so brave souls who made their way to one of the less salubrious parts of Hackney.

The concert finished with a real tour de force, Schnittke's polystylistic Concerto Grosso, which engagingly drew upon and juxtaposed baroque and romantic music with aggressively modern 12-note and texture-based writing and 'my grandmother's favourite tango' (Alfred Schnittke & Calum MacDonald). Gorgeously irreverent stuff, which came up fresh as paint under Clio Gould's direction of a truly virtuosic group of advanced RAM students, nearly all of them young women - there's a change from my early days of concertgoing, when symphony orchestras were masculine bastions and Beecham even had a male harpist in his orchestra...

The important second violin soloist was either Maria or Marta, unspecified? The other one gave us a riveting performance of Nigel Osborne's Taw-Raw for unaccompanied solo violin, a delectable confection inspired by a Shan instrument "a hybrid of coconut fiddle, western violin and phonograph" (sample it from Madeleine Mitchell's NMC CD In Sunlight).

This was a splendid concert, but only an hour long. That may be fine for local people, and no doubt the format had been thoroughly researched. Travelling in London is tending to get more difficult and waiting around Shoreditch for another hour's music at 9.00 p.m. was a daunting prospect; we decided to settle for tring to catch the BBCR3 broadcast...

Peter Grahame Woolf