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Horne, Hesketh, Ewers and Arab composers

David Horne Splintered Instruments
Samir Odeh-Tamimi Anin (UK première)
Mounir Anastas Les Cinq Sens (UK première)
Ian Gardiner Spinning ans weaving (London première)
Patrick Lama 2 songs for soprano and piano (UK première)
Tim Ewers The Blackbird Sings (London première)
Kenneth Hesketh Music of a distant drum

Camille Maalawy mezzo-soprano
Rodney Clarke baritone
Katherine Lacy bass clarinet
Ensemble 10/10

Thelma Handy Violin Jennifer Glester Violin Fiona Winning Viola Hilary Browning Cello Marcel Becker Double bass Cormac Henry Flute & Alto flute Rachael Pankhurst Oboe & Cor anglais Nicholas Cox Clarinet & Bass clarinet Dan Jones Percussion Toby Kearney Percussion Ruth Potter Harp Ian Buckle Piano

Clark Rundell conductor [pictured]

Wigmore Hall, Friday 5 March 2010

Ensemble 10/10, the contemporary ensemble of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra formed some twelve years ago, has a distinguished record of concerts and recordings. At Wigmore Hall this week it made what seems to have been its belated London debut.

The programme was part of Al Farabi Concertoa series of concerts designed to promote the music of Arab composers alongside that of their Western counterpartsand was introduced by conductor Clark Rundell, who is communicative with words as adept with baton.

There was a time, not so long ago, when new music was often slow and portentous. Here we had several works which were swift and virtuosic, and the whole evening was invigorating; marked by cunning contrasts of mood and instrumentation, the group ranging up to about ten instrumentalists making a brave, full sound to fill Wigmore Hall, regrettably unmatched by audience attendance for so auspicious an event.

David Horne's piece from 2004 was for flute, clarinet and strings - the same combination as Ravel's Introduction & Allegro, which would go with it in concert very well. Using the harp - an unnamed soloist kept busy through the evening - as "catalyst", it is a piece of great vitality in "a classical modernist aesthetic". Ewers' evocation of a blackbird which for the mating season "made the balcony of our house his own" realised his aim to capture its "vitality and zest for life" with rich instrumentation from the full ensemble.

The Arab composers represented were various as were their provenances and affiliations, the more distinctively middle-Eastern Odeh-Tamimi's richly evocative early work "concerned with his origins and identity" for full ensemble.

Anastas was represented by five short but pungent pieces for violin, Thelma Handy somewhat overwhelmed by piano and two percussionists; composed for radio, they needed a little help with balancing. Likewise Gardiner's concertante piece for bass-clarinet needed more projection from Katherine Lacy; maybe her instrument is too heavy to play standing up?

Lama's two songs to texts form Darwish's Yatirou-I Haanou felt like extended accompanied recitative, expressively presented by an excellent versatile mezzo Camille Maalawy, whose repertoire represents her "passion for embracing music from many cultures".

Most impressive, indeed riveting, was Hesketh's ambitious song cycle, an important contribution to the genre, some 25 minutes long in five vocal sections plus an instrumental interlude, after which Rodney Clarke, glass in hand, rose to celebrate the glories of wine, which "shows man's mettle, marks free born from slave, noble from base". With sensitive deployment of instrumental support by the full ensemble (the clarinet up in Wigmore Hall's gallery) this made for a rousing finale to a special concert.

The programme book was informative and well produced. It is good to see that future plans for Ensemble 10/10 include CDs showcasing David Horne and Liverpool composer Kenneth Hesketh, both discs which I await eagerly.

Peter Grahame Woolf