Thursday, 26 April 2018

Capturing the 20th century on a Piano

This coming Saturday Late Music present a truly challenging series of three concerts all performed by virtuoso pianist Ian Pace, and curated by composer David Power. I will be reprising a role I used to do regularly by giving a short pre-concert talk at 6.45pm with David. I'd like to detour a little and talk about the people involved:

Ian Pace, 50 this year, is a veritable tour de force of Contemporary music, dedicated very thoroughly to the cause and a staple of Late Music since its early days as a festival of new music. His playing is characterised by a mighty technique and seemingly bottomless capacity for new virtuosic repertoire. He has been champion of many a composer, including Michael Finnissy, and lately Marc Yeats. At heart, his tastes are germanic and routed in the second Viennese school, and as a prominent musicologist, his studies focus on politics in music.

David Power was one of the founding members of Late Music, then called Soundpool, and has been involved on and off over the years in various capacities including Artistic Director. He has also run his own festivals such as Grimsby St. Hughs, as well as projects based on new British song. My experience of David over the years has been that he lies rather intentionally "outside" of the accepted oevre of "contemporary" music and instead focusses on the lyrical (slyly jibing me every now and then for using a major triad in an otherwise dissonant piece!). What seems to interest David a lot is the notion of accessibility in contemporary music - something which is frequently on my mind as well. In many ways this is the task of a concert promoter within the obscure field of this music - to sell it to the audience, and to get the audience involved.

For Saturday's Concert, David has chosen a veritable smorgasbord of 20th century piano music. How did he choose the pieces? "Subjectivity" he states, and there is certainly a large helping of David Power in the mix; most notably a healthy dose of French repertoire, with Ravel, Debussy, Poulenc, Messian, Murail, Boulez, and Satie all represented. Skempton's "Well, well Cornelius" also very in keeping with Power's output. Aside from this though there is a huge variety of fantastic repertoire waiting for us. Hearing Stockhausen's Klavierst├╝ke IX followed by John Adams's China Gates may surprise some of you, and in the mix are such giants as Boulez's Third Piano Sonata, Three of Ligeti's Etudes, Takemitsu's Rain Tree Sketch, and Schoenberg's diminutive but intense Sechs Kleine Kalvierst├╝cke.

Does this capture the best of output of the 20th Century? We would need a good few weeks of 3 concerts a day to even make the smallest dent, however what there will be in these performances is something for every discerning ear.

Dr. Edward Caine