Monday, 21 May 2012

May concert: Guest review by Kathleen Hawkins

We have a vibrant community of music aficionados followers on Twitter. Last month we offered a select few an opportunity to attend the concert and write a review for us. And we’re happy to present a review by Kathleen Hawkins. If you would like to review the concert on June 2 featuring works by Arvo Part and many more, leave us a comment on this page or get in touch via Twitter (@LateMusicUK).

To kick off the evening David Lancaster discussed his world premiering composition Velocity. It was fascinating to hear the inspiration behind both this piece and its ‘companion’ piece Vertigo, which was also played; namely that the two pieces were inspired by part of Herrmann’s score to Hitchcock’s film, and to hear the composer describe the writing process and how he goes about composing for a string quartet; writing via computer Lancaster told how he must always keep in mind the physical limitations of the instruments and players, that there are some things are just not possible – this filled me with anticipation to hear it!

First piece of the night was Philip Glass’s String Quartet No. 4, Buczak. The hypnotic arpeggio phrases of the first movement, rising and falling in volume, the repetitive structures and subtle transformations of all three movements, the pizzicato of the viola and cello accompanied by the long, drawn bows of the violins all created a haunting impact through the quartet’s albeit apparent simplicity.

World premiere Velocity by David Lancaster provided an instantly more sombre feel to its ‘companion’ piece Vertigo. Velocity had a much looser structure, and allowed freer exploration compared to Vertigo which had a strict structure with an 80 bar theme transforming with each repetition. The instruments worked like characters in a silent movie – each became almost protaganists, abstract characters, which at times created a disjointed and aggressive timbre. However, an aggressive motif used in both pieces created almost an idee fixe, or in cinematic terms de ja vu, which was able to stabilise the haste and frantic nature of the piece.

Steve Crowther’s single-movement First String Quartet, A Song For Salford, was packed exhilarating cross-rhythms. A composition about a trip to Salford it managed to create the feeling especially of a train ride to Salford with its fast-paced, hectic phrases.

Nicola LeFanu’s rhapsodic Second Quartet began with a frantic energy, included beautiful solos from both viola and cello and moved eloquently to a peaceful close. It was wonderful to see a third composer attending the evening to hear their composition.

John Adam’s Fellow Traveler was fast-paced and momentous and made for a dazzling finish to the repertoire. Each piece played was selected beautifully. All required concentration, but the captivating numbers and the delivery of the Ligeti Quartet meant that concentration naturally followed suit. The Ligeti Quartet was truly brilliant. They delivered a polished and emotive performance throughout the entire evening and demonstrated great professionalism well beyond their mere two years as a quartet.

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