Thursday, 19 April 2012

Late Music and diversity

The Song Recital featuring baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and pianist Nigel Foster (Saturday 7th April) was a real triumph of style and diversity: six new works written for the concert, settings of ten local or regional poets who were (mostly) present for this feast of song.

But what of a concert of String Quartets?

On Saturday 5th May the Ligeti String Quartet will play music by Philip Glass, John Adams, Nicola Le Fanu, myself and a new work by David Lancaster. Is this a diverse bag of compositions? Well yes.
For Mr Glass, repetition and process are the tools he uses to spin these minimalist webs of intricate beauty. But are there echoes of the past? How about the Baroque? Bach and Glass, surely not. Well, both styles tend to meet at one central idea, that the music creates a single state or mood, as opposed to the Classical idea of drama and duality, for example.
However, one could also make the point that …’ whereas Bach can create multiple meanings from a single line, Glass can only create minimal meanings however many lines!!’ [Nicola Le Fanu].

Ah, but Zen…

good win for Chelsea last night
John Adams’ Fellow Traveller also comes under the ‘minimalist’ umbrella, but this fast, syncopated driven short piece embraces a different aesthetic to the world of Glass.
Nicola likened the form of her String Quartet ‘…as like a concise poem, a musical equivalent to a sonnet’. And, as it was composed for the London international String Quartet competition in 1997, it had 12 premieres in one day!
Can one compose ‘political’ music? Frederic Rzewski is profoundly moved by matters of injustice, class and even revolution eg in the magnificent set of piano variations, The People United Will Never Be Defeated. My String Quartet No1 is subtitled ‘A Song for Salford’ and responds to my first visit to Salford many years ago. Much of the writing is raw and physical but there is, in the musical train journey, a search for hope, if not salvation. That was found in the people I met and reflected in a search for a tonal resolution.
The first movement of David Lancaster’s piece looks to the spiky sound world of Bernard Hermann for inspiration. The resulting Vertigo, a movement full of wit and invention, was part of a Partners in Suspense project, a fitting celebration of the Hitchcock and Hermann collaborations. The second movement, no doubt, will have many new twists and turns… I can’t wait!

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