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Satie & Stravinsky

Satie Socrate
Three Pieces for string quartet Three Pieces for clarinet Concertino for string quartet Renard

Barbara Hannigan (narrator) & Reinbert de Leeuw (piano) [Socrate]
Jonathan Morton & Joan Atherton (violins), Paul Silverthorne (viola) & Tim Gill (cello) Timothy Lines (clarinets)

Daniel Norman & Edgaras Montvidas (tenors) and Roderick Williams & John Malloy (basses)
London Sinfonietta/Barbara Hannigan, conductor [Renard]

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, February 10, 2013

Attracted to this expensive concert by the involvement of Barbara Hannigan, it was disconcerting to discover that she was not to be singing. The very lavish programme book (some 30 pages pus advertisements) was difficult to manage, with its very small grey print on grey paper unreadable in the dimmed hall, so that the translations of the French (Socrate) and Russian (Renard) were impossible to follow. Also, that there was no interval for some two hours was odd...

Erik Satie’s austere Socrate (1919) can still come as a shock with its restraint, difficult to connect with from the farther rows of QEH. It was introduced (scripted by Timberlake Wertenbaker) by Harriet Walter at a lectern, purporting to be the wealthy Princesse Marie-Blanched de Polignac reminiscing. She'd commissioned most of the afternoon's music, with some contretemps with Diaghilev.

Afficionados of 17 C music know de Polignac's singing from Nadia Boulanger's famous recordings of Monteverdi with Hugues Cuénod etc, which remain important as the start of the baroque music renewal.

Without being able to follow the texts of Socrate at QEH, attention could wander, as Satie's piano accompaniment is simple - there is another ensemble version, which might have been more appropriate for this event?

Hannigan conducted the Cock & Fox of Renard with precision and aplomb, which suggests that she will have a prolonged contribution to make in the performance of contemporary music after her singing career ends; hopefully, long from now.

She looked great with the four singers and the London Sinfonietta with prominent cimbalom; but concert photos were forbidden at SBC...

Come back soon to sing in London, Barbara !

Peter Grahame Woolf


See on YouTube Ligeti's Mysteries of the Macabre, conducted and sung by Barbara Hannigan 2011 in Paris