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March/April 2017 – upcoming London classical/experimental gigs – Kammer Klang taken over by moss, yeast and bacteria (via Hackuarium’s Living Instruments project and the We Spoke Ensemble); plus music for spectral/timbral moods and for mute/hands/voice (via Explore Ensemble and Wai-Nok Angela Hui performances of Mark Applebaum, Fausto Romitelli, Gérard Grisey) – 31st March to 4th April

24 Mar

Punters at Café Oto will tell you that the beloved Dalston art pit sells a variety of craft beers. To my knowledge, none of them are made with singing yeasts. Next month, that might change.

Kammer Klang, 4th April 2017The centrepiece of this month’s Kammer Klang activities at Oto are the Living Instruments – “musical instruments based on microorganisms, built by a team including classically trained musicians and professional and hobbyist scientists” – which are making their British debut following their world debut at Le Bourg, Lausanne and an appearance in Darmstadt at the 2016 International Summer Course for New Music. Initiated by Swiss DIY-biology open lab Hackuarium as a low-tech, low-cost, open source interdisciplinary research project, they’re being presented and performed by the Swiss-Anglo ensemble We Spoke, who’ll be triggering the lifeforms and interpreting their output.

Both ensemble and organisms are taking up residence at Café Oto for five days, incorporating a public exhibition, a two-day composer’s workship culminating in a free performance, and a headlining slot on the April Kammer Klang bill. Here’s more on the science and method behind the project:

“Performers will stimulate fermentation bubbles, paramecia, moss, visualised radioactive traces and other curiosities of nature, their activity and data converted into sound via sensors. The nature of the instruments allows the performers to engage with them interactively, and the cyclic behaviour of the living objects is reflected musically in rich grooves and rhythmic patterns.”

Control devices featured include the Mossphone (which monitors the physical reactions of moss when it’s touched, and interprets them as analogues to “singing, snarling, murmuring or growling”), the yeast-driven Bubble Organ, the bacteriological marshal-and-track Paramecia Controller and the iPadPix app (part Geiger counter, part cloud chamber, part drum machine), in conjunction with the Virtual Soprano instrument controller (which translates facial movements into music). Some of the chemical and biological actions will be projected onto screens as a visual accompaniment.

The Living Instruments in action

The Living Instruments in action

The composer’s workshop (with ten places available to those who can send a CV and a couple of sentences outlining their interest in the project) gives composers a crash-course in the workings of the organisms and their control devices, plus the opportunity to compose and fine tune a piece using the control software, to be presented to the public on the Monday night concert.

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Also playing at Kammer Klang are twentieth/twenty-first century classical specialists Explore Ensemble, made up of soloists associated with the Royal College of Music. They’ll be playing two pieces: both of them by composers whose lives were unfairly cut short, and both of whom were associated with the evolving-timbre-over-time school of spectral music.

The first of these is ‘Talea’, a 1986 piece by spectral pioneer Gérard Grisey. Here’s something on the piece from ‘The Strad‘s Bruce Hodges, taken from a description of a performance by the Talea Ensemble:

“In Latin, “talea” means “cutting,” and in Gérard Grisey’s ‘Talea’, an initial idea is gradually excised—elements removed and others taking their place. In two parts played without pause, the work is intended to — in the composer’s words — “express two aspects or, more precisely, two auditory angles of a single phenomenon.” But his concise description feels inadequate to describe the experience of hearing the score. ‘Talea’s power comes from its examination and illumination of an overtone cycle, a phenomenon integral to Grisey’s output (and spectral music in general).

“Somehow when one hears the ensemble (flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano) illuminating Grisey’s argument, it feels like being exposed to one of life’s basic building blocks—like grasping at DNA and holding it in your hands. The five players alternate between moments of great ferocity (especially in the piano), and those of eerie quietude — at times almost as if everything has been shut down completely; at others, sounds emerge like soft groans from the earth itself. The timbres float, hover, barge into your brain, recede, reform themselves, take you hostage. As the scurrying of the first part calms down in the second, the waters reform, interrupted by various phenomena, until a kind of miraculous climax occurs near the end. Bit by bit, the violinist states the overtone scale with a thrilling baldness—as if everything previously had been building toward this moment—before the violinist repeats the scale again, and this time the sequence is abruptly cut off.”

The second piece is ‘Domeniche alla periferia dell’impero’, composed by Fausto Romitelli (a student of Grisey’s who took strong inspiration from both him). The piece – the second section of which is dedicated to Grisey and his fellow Spectralist Hugues Dufourt – was worked out in various versions between 1996 and 2000 prior to Romitelli’s untimely death from cancer. Again, I’ve lifted a little text from the Talea Ensemble pages to illustrate the nature of his work:

“Romitelli’s music is a collage of styles that defy classification; his work drawing from all corners and incorporating timbres associated with psychedelic rock music and spectral harmony. From screaming electric guitar and electronics to sensual textures, his music is fresh and innovative in the contemporary canon. At times, his hellish sound-world evokes nightmarish and hallucinatory qualities that inspire a visceral listening experience.”

The composer himself once laid his methods out as follows: “At the centre of my composing lies the idea of considering sound as a material into which one plunges in order to forge its physical and perceptive characteristics: grain, thickness, porosity, luminosity, density and elasticity. Hence it is sculpture of sound, instrumental synthesis, anamorphosis, transformation of the spectral morphology, and a constant drift towards unsustainable densities, distortions and interferences, thanks also to the assistance of electro-acoustic technologies. And increasing importance is given to the sonorities of non-academic derivation and to the sullied, violent sound of a prevalently metallic origin of certain rock and techno music.”

Examples of both pieces below, plus excerpts of Explore Ensemble performing another Romitelli piece, ‘Professor Bad Trip’:




 
This month’s Fresh Klang item is provided by London-based percussionist Wai-Nok Angela Hui, one of the percussion finalists in the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2010 and a performer with the BBC Symphony Orchestra as well as a soloist and chamber musician. She searches for the unexplored possibilities between classical music, musical theatre and art, and collaborates with artists, poets and painters, incorporating a multitude of instruments and styles.

She’ll be performing ‘Aphasia’ by Mark Applebaum– a demanding physical/philosophical performance piece written for hand gestures synchronised to pre-recorded sound. (The latter is based on thousands of edited and transformed vocal samples originated by baritone Nicholas Isherwood, from sung notes, musical phrases and intoned numbers in a variety of language through to drones, lip smacks and hiccups). Here’s an excerpt from Camille Brown’s ‘Stanford Report’ essay on the original work, plus a video of Applebaum himself performing it.

“While the piece was inspired by a conversation between Isherwood and Applebaum, the idea to write a piece for a mute singer with hand motions was Applebaum’s own “obsession.” His intention was to have Aphasia come across as a metaphor for “expressive paralysis,” something that unnerves him every time he “confronts the terror of composing a new piece.” So how does one go about the paradox of writing a composition for a performance that has no form of verbal communication or written words?

“Applebaum began by collaborating with Isherwood to produce the sounds, a collection of three hours of Isherwood singing. The singing consisted of “a bunch of crazy sounds – very strange things I asked of him.” From there Applebaum isolated individual samples and transformed his selections radically through computer processes. The result, he said, “was a garbled voice of sorts.” Applebaum then choreographed “a kind of invented nonsense sign language” to accompany the now otherworldly sound sequence. Based on everyday activities, the gestures were recorded as a written musical score, using icons with names such as “give me the money” and “Post-it Notes.”

“These gestures, each of which are described in detail in the work’s appendix, are intended to reflect the composer’s fascination in “absurdity that seems to be the consequence of tedious, obsessive attention to ridiculous things.” Or, in other words, how bizarre the actions of our mundane routine of activity seem when they are examined out of context… The fast-paced and unexpected nature of Aphasia in performance that gives it charm and broad appeal. Since the piece is so far removed from what is recognized as common musical practice, it is equally accessible to music experts and novice listeners alike. As Applebaum points out, “Kids love it. So do people who need a break from conventional modes of expression.”


 
This months’ Kammer Klang DJ set is provided by Neu Records, an independent label which, last year, released We Spoke’s album ‘Different Beat’ (featuring the music of Fritz Hauser). Based in Barcelona, the label is devoted to recording contemporary music in surround and 3D formats, as well as providing a platform for interaction between international composers and performers of the highest level.

Programme summary:

Fresh Klang: Mark Applebaum – Aphasia (performed by Wai-Nok Angela Hui)
Explore Ensemble performs:
Gérard Grisey – Talea (for violin, cello, flute, clarinet, and piano) (performed by Explore Ensemble)
Fausto Romitelli – Domeniche alla periferia dell’impero (for four instruments) (performed by Explore Ensemble)
Living Instruments (UK premiere – presented and performed by We Spoke Ensemble & Hackuarium)
DJs: Neu Records

Full dates:

  • Living Instruments Composers’ Workshop – Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Friday 31st March 2017, 12.00pm-7.00pm & Monday 3rd April 2017, 12.00pm-7.00pm – information here and here
  • Living Instruments Exhibition – Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Saturday 1st April 2017, 11.00am-8.00pm – information here and here
  • Living Instruments free performance (featuring outcomes of Composers’ Workshop) – Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Monday 3rd April 2017, 8.00pm – information here and here
  • Kammer Klang (We Spoke & Living Instruments + Explore Ensemble + Wai-Nok Angela Hui)- Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England, Tuesday 4th April 2017, 7.30pm – information here and here

 

March/April 2017 – upcoming London gigs – Piano Day fringes – Xenia Pestova’s Non-Piano evening (18th March); Sophie Hutchings, Arthur Lea, Xenia Pestova and others at Daylight Music (1st April)

13 Mar

“Why does the world need a Piano Day? For many reasons, but mostly, because it doesn’t hurt to celebrate the piano and everything around it: performers, composers, piano builders, tuners, movers and most important, the listener.”Nils Frahm, Piano Day founder)

This year, Piano Day is on the 29th of March. I did a pretty exhaustive guide to last year’s event – I doubt that I’ll go to the same lengths this year (if you’re interested, have a look at the official site), but here are a couple of upcoming concerts related both to that and to its tinkly little brother, World Toy Piano Day eleven days earlier on 18th March.

Xenia Pestova: Non-Piano, 18th March 2017
Xenia Pestova presents:
Xenia Pestova: Non-Piano
IKLECTIK Art Lab, ‘Old Paradise Yard’, 20 Carlisle Lane, Lambeth, London, SE1 7LG, England
Saturday 18th March 2017, 8.30pm
information

“Pianist Xenia Pestova will play everything but the piano, presenting a wild mix of unconventional objects and sounds. The performance will include music by Helga Arias Parra for two aerospace engineers with prepared piano and live electronics, by Ed Bennett for the Indian harmonium and drones, by Christopher Fox for toy piano, Pierre Alexandre Tremblay for the ROLI Seaboard and fantastic world premieres from the participants of the first London Toy Piano Composition Workshop.”


 

Xenia is also one of the several pianists performing at the Daylight Music Piano Day concert at the start of April.

Daylight Music 251: Piano Day 2017
Arctic Circle presents:
Daylight Music 251: Piano Day with Sophie Hutchings + Arthur Lea + Xenia Pestova + Lorenzo Masotto
Union Chapel, Compton Terrace, Islington, London, N1 2UN, England
Saturday 1st April 2017, 12.00pm
– free event (suggested donation: £5.00) – information

“For centuries, people have found joy in playing, and listening to, the piano. Nils Frahm thought this beloved instrument should be honoured, and launched Piano Day in 2015. Daylight Music will be joining in the worldwide celebrations with a special concert of piano delights — including performances from Sophie Hutchings, Arthur Lea, Xenia Pestova and Lorenzo Masotto. From John Cage interpreted on toy piano, to retro rhythm’n’blues and southern soul to post-classical reflection from the other side of the world.”





 

March 2017 – upcoming gigs – selections from the Sheffield Classical Weekend (17th-19th)

6 Mar

There’s plenty going on at the three-day mid-March Sheffield Classical Weekend, with the city permeated with music including many old and new favourites. Among what’s on offer are two different performances of Arvo Pärt’s ‘Fratres’ (one by a wind band, one by a host of strings), two Dreams of China concerts covering formal Chinese classical compositions) and a host of choral shows (the classic monk’s-debauchery of Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’ via Schubert’s ‘Mirjam’s Siegesgesang’ and Brahms’ ‘Ziguenerlieder’, through to a variety of pops choirs.) Though I’d advise checking out the entire, pleasingly diverse programme, here are my own brief and subjective picks from it, if you’re interested.

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Oliver Coates & cellists: ‘Canticles of the Sky’ – Kelham Island Museum, Alma St, Sheffield, S3 8RY, England, Saturday 18th March 2017, 3:30pm & 5.00pminformation

“A UK premiere featuring star cellist Oliver Coates (Radiohead, ‘Under The Skin’ and ‘There Will Be Blood’). Olly and a host of cellists will surround the Kelham Island audience and lift you skyward with this ethereal and dreamy work from Pulitzer and Grammy-winning composer John Luther Adams. Also featuring extracts from J.S Bach’s Cello Suites.”

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Five Choirs: Sounds From Heaven – St Marie’s Cathedral, Norfolk Row, Sheffield S1 2JB, England, Sunday 19th March 2017, 2:30pminformation

“Perched around the sides of the excellent acoustic space within the Cathedral Church of St Marie, five Sheffield chamber choirs – Abbeydale Singers, Sheffield Chamber Choir, Sterndale Singers, Sheffield Chorale and Viva Voce – will “create a swoonsome heart-lifting soundscape of song.” As well as old and new choral standbys by John Tavener, Arvo Pärt, Felix Mendelssohn and others, the concert will include the premiere of ‘Kraal’ a commission for five simultaneous choirs written by Jenny Jackson (a member of Sheffield’s own contemporary composer collective, Platform 4).”

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More music fostered by Platform 4 will be popping up a few times over the weekend. Flautist Rachel Shirley performs “a selection of colourful and inventive works for flute, piano, blown bottles and saxophone“; there’s an evening date at Yellow Arch Studios with players from Sheffield Music Academy, performing the collective’s own “imaginative cutting-edge compositions”. There’s a “mind-bending” collaboration with Opera On Location in which “stories are turned upside down and endings become beginnings in (a) selection of operatic palindromes, where the music is the same both backwards and forwards… featuring Paul Hindemith’s short opera ‘Hin Und Zurück’ (‘There And Back’), plus new bitesize and puzzling pieces…” Platform 4 also contribute the cello-and-electric keyboard piece ‘Upright Stance’ to be performed alongside Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto at Oliver Coates’ concert with Sheffield Music Hub Senior Schools.

  • Opera On Location with Platform 4 – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Friday 17th March 2017, 8:30pminformation (contains strong and sexually explicit language – recommended for 18+)
  • Rachel Shirley: ‘Hooting & Drinking’ – Channing Hall @ Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, Saturday 18th March 2017, 3.30pminformation
  • Oliver Coates & Sheffield Music Hub Senior Schools: ‘From The Heart: Shostakovich’ – City Hall Ballroom @ Sheffield City Hall, Barkers Pool, Sheffield, S1 2JA, England, Sunday 19th March, 12:00pminformation
  • Platform 4 with Sheffield Music Academy – Yellow Arch Studios, 30-36 Burton Road, Neepsend, Sheffield, S3 8BX, England, Sunday 19th March 2017, 6:30pminformation

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On the Friday and the Saturday, there are some thoughtfully programmed Sound Laboratory events centring on the music, ideas and influence of Pierre Boulez. Saturday sees a triple-banked set featuring pianists Beate Toyka and Matthew Odell, violinists Darragh Morgan and Lucy Phillips, clarinettist Sarah Watts and the University of Sheffield New Music Ensemble.

Each of these mini-concerts sets one of Boulez’s first three Piano Sonatas against another piece. ‘The Conflict And The Passion’ pitches ‘Piano Sonata No. 1’ against Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata in a study of thwarted passions. ‘Deconstruction & Digitalisation’ presents the classical deconstruction of ‘Piano Sonata No. 2’ and the electro-acoustic contrasts of ‘Anthemes II’. ‘Choice And Chance’ (the only one of the concerts to feature two Boulez compositions) offers ‘Piano Sonata No. 3’ and the clarinet-and-orchestra piece ‘Domaines’, contrasting a piece in which major options are available to the performer and one which is considerably more ordered and regimented.

The series opens on Friday with a special Boulez-inspired concert in which “the avant-garde becomes child’s play… primary school children from across the city explore the curious frontiers of contemporary electronic music and present the results of their musical experimentation.”

Sound Laboratory:

  • ‘Computer Music’ – Firth Hall @ University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, England, Friday 17th March 2017, 1:30pminformation
  • ‘The Conflict & The Passion’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Saturday 18th March 1:30pminformation
  • ‘Deconstruction & Digitalisation’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Saturday 18th March 3:30pminformation
  • ‘Choice and Chance’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Saturday 18th March 5:00pminformation

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Among the Chinese-inspired events is one in which Chinese and European chamber music merge as celebrated guzheng zither soloist Xia Jing teams up with The Fidelio Trio (Darragh Morgan on violin, Adi Tal on cello and Mary Dullea on piano). They’ll be presenting a concert of brand-new musical premieres – Gao Ping’s ‘Feng Zheng’ (‘Kite’), Jeroen Speak’s ‘Silk Dialogues 7’, Dylan Lardelli‘s ‘Shells’, and ‘Time Bends In The Rock’ by Sheffield-based composer Dorothy Ker.

Fidelio Trio & Xia Jing: ‘Global Soundtracks: Silk Dialogues’ – Upper Chapel, Norfolk Street, Sheffield, S1 2JD, England, Friday 17th March 2017, 9:30pminformation

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In addition, there’s a variety of pop-up performances across the three days, featuring abbreviated sets by event headliners plus showings by small instrumental and vocal groups. It’s an open-minded spill moving out from classical forms to embrace folk, alt.chamber and other kinds of music.

One promising set of contributors are Manchester quintet Kabantu, who’ve thankfully dropped their previous name Project Jam Sandwich and who also “throw away the rulebook to bridge countries and cultures, creating an exuberant and joyful soundworld… vocal harmonies from South Africa coalesce with everything from Celtic reels and Brazilian samba to Balkan folk music and beyond.” Featuring violin, guitar, cello, double bass and percussion in addition to voices, they’re playing a pop-up show but also two separate consecutive-but-entirely-different sets at Yellow Arch Studios.

Classical by Night – Kabantu @ Yellow Arch Studios, 30-36 Burton Road, Neepsend, Sheffield, S3 8BX, England, Sunday 19th March 2017, 6.30pm & 9:30pm – information here and here
 

March 2017 – upcoming London classical/classical-experimental gigs, (7th, 16th, 17th) – Kammer Klang (with Klara Lewis/Nik Colk Void, Christopher Redgate, Phaedra Ensemble performing Leo Chadburn and John Uren); Tomos Xerri & Claire Wickes’ rush-hour duets (with a new Liam Mattison piece); Elisabeth Turmo & Elena Toponogova’s Norwegian/Russian celebration

1 Mar

As well as composers ranging from Grieg to Takemitsu, these three upcoming London gigs take in trolls, moths, David Bowie, extended fiddles and oboes, and just a tiny hint of saw abuse. Let’s have a look and listen.

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Kammer Klang, 7th March 2017Kammer Klang presents:
Klara Lewis + Phaedra Ensemble (performing Leo Chadburn) + Christopher Redgate + John Uren + Holodisc DJs
Café Oto, 18-22 Ashwin Street, Dalston, London, E8 3DL, England
Tuesday 7th March 2017, 7.30pm
– information here and here

From the Kammerers (supplemented by a few text raids from here and there)…

“In our second show of 2017 we are joined by Klara Lewis, the critically acclaimed sound sculptress who has performed in clubs and art galleries around the world. Lewis builds her work from heavily manipulated samples and field recordings, creating a unique combination of the organic and the digital. Klara’s second album ‘Too’ was released in 2016 on Editions Mego to great acclaim. She will be performing with Nik Colk Void, an experimental electronic recording artist who is one part of Factory Floor (an alliance with Gabriel Gurnsey) and one-third of Carter Tutti Void (with former Throbbing Gristle members Cosey Fanny Tutti and Chris Carter). Coming from an English art school background, and an education that was decidedly non-musical in nature, Nik’s work is as conceptual as it is visceral – exploring the out-regions of pushing and manipulating sound (via modular synthesis, extended guitar techniques and vocal processing), and collaborating with contemporary visual artists such as Haroon Mirza and Philippe Parreno.



 
“We are also joined by Phaedra Ensemble, whose performances explore the spaces between classical, experimental and contemporary music. Phaedra brings together some of London’s most exciting musicians to curate programmes with new collaborations, reinterpretations of well-known modern works and forgotten classics. Its members have a strong intuition for genre-crossing and interdisciplinary work, often in collaboration with artists from other disciplines. This month Phaedra will perform ‘The Indistinguishables’, a 2014 string-quartet-and-electronics work by Leo Chadburn. Leo is a composer and performer of experimental and electronic music, gallery music and (as Simon Bookish) avant-pop. ‘The Indistinguishables’ works through a cycle of seventy names of UK moth species, each accompanied by a chord or phrase, like a fleeting soundtrack to these evocative words. The recordings are triggered by the quartet, so the pacing of the pauses and resonances is under their control, part of their ensemble dynamic.


 
“Phaedra will also be performing this month’s “Fresh Klang” work, which is from British composer John Uren. ‘A few weeks after David Bowie’s death in January 2016, Dr Mark Taubert, a palliative care doctor based in Cardiff, wrote an open letter to Bowie, posthumously thanking him for the soundtrack he had provided to his life, his dedication to his art, and the inspiration he was, and continues to be, for others also facing end-of-life illnesses. Retweeted by Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones, Mark’s letter has gone on to have a huge impact, and has been recited at several Letters Live events by Jarvis Cocker and Benedict Cumberbatch. John collaborated with Mark for this composition, combining a recording of Mark reading his own beautiful letter with fragile strings and electronic timbres; acting as a cushion for Mark’s words to drift across.


 
“The distinguished oboeist Christopher Redgate will perform his own work ‘Multiphonia’. Since his time as a student at the Royal Academy of Music, he has specialised in the performance of contemporary oboe music. Now the Evelyn Barbirolli Research Fellow at the Royal Academy of Music and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music, Christopher (in collaboration with Howarth of London) has redesigned the instrument. He performs exclusively on his creation, the Howarth-Redgate 21st Century Oboe, which offers extended capability for twenty-first-century music including microtones, multiphonics, extended range and electronics.

“There will also be DJ sets from the people behind British experimental music label Holodisc.”

Programme:

Fresh Klang: John Uren – Her Own Dying Moments (performed by Phaedra Ensemble)
Leo Chadburn – The Indistinguishables (performed by Phaedra Ensemble)
Christopher Redgate – Multiphonia (for solo oboe)
Klara Lewis + Nik Colk Void – improvised set

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South and slightly west, here are a couple of interesting-looking duo shows at the 1901 Club in Waterloo – picked out from the rest of the venue’s busy schedule by dint of having interesting instrumentation, interesting juxtapositions, or the promise of new pieces being premiered.

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Tomos Xerri, 2017Hattori Foundation presents:
Hattori Foundation Rush-Hour Recital: Tomos Xerri & Claire Wickes
1901 Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE, England
Thursday 16th March 2017, 6.00pm
information

Outstanding contemporary harpist and Riot Ensemble member Tomos Xerri performs regular duet concerts with English National Opera’s principal flautist Claire Wickes (who also plays as guest principal with most of the big London orchestras, as well as the São Paulo Symphony). Here’s one of those shows – one of the Hattori Foundation’s showcase concerts, nicely timed for the Waterloo homeward-bounders.

Claire Wickes, 2017

While Claire and Tomos will be playing a set of established pieces by Takemitsu, Debussy, Piazzolla and American tonal hero Lowell Liebermann (as well as a sonata by the distinguished twentieth-century British polymath William Alwyn), they are both strong enthusiasts for contemporary music, and are premiering a new composition by Trinity Laban alumnus Liam Mattison (a recent partipant in the LSO’s Panufnik Composers Scheme).

Look out, too, for any mention of Tomas’ upcoming musical-saw-and-electronics project… which at the moment seems to be more of a tingling promise than anything concrete. If any more evidence shows up, I’ll blog it myself.

Programme:

Astor Piazzolla – Bordel 1900 (from Histoire du Tango)
Lowell Liebermann – Sonata for Flute & Harp
Claude Debussy – La Chevelure (from Trois Chansons de Bilitis), Nuit D’Étoiles
Tōru Takemitsu – Toward the Sea III
Liam Mattison – new commission
William Alwyn – Naiades (Fantasy-Sonata)

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Elisabeth Turmo, 20171901 Club presents:
Elisabeth Turmo & Elena Toponogova: “Two Journeys”
1901 Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE, England
Friday 17th March 2017, 6.30pm
information

This is a musical celebration of two cultures, Norwegian and Russian, performed by Norwegian violinist Elisabeth Turmo and Siberian pianist Elena Toponogova. Both are recent or imminent Masters graduates from the Royal College of Music, with growing international reputations. Elizabeth has performed as a soloist with the Arctic Philharmonic, the Oslo Chamber Orchestra, the Toppen International Festival Orchestra and the Barratt Due Symphony Orchestra; while Elena has performed as a chamber musician and soloist across the United Kingdom, Russia and Germany.

Elena Tonogova, 2017Already tagged as “conveying the stormful temperament of a northern Norwegian” in her concert performances, Elisabeth is also an up-and-coming exponent of the hardingfele, or “Hardanger fiddle” – the thin-wooded Norwegian violin with additional sympathetic strings which is traditionally used for folk dances and church processionals, and which bridges the gap between Norway’s ecclesiastical life and its supernatural mythology (by way of “troll-tunings” and Robert Johnson-esque myths about music lessons from the Devil).

Several hardingfele pieces will be performed as part of the concert set. I doubt that these will include a solo arrangement of Michael Grolid’s recent ‘Ouverture’ (as played here two years ago by Elizabeth and Barratt Due’s Symphony Orchestra) but I’ve included it in lieu of her having posted up any other recordings with the instrument.


 
Programme:

Ole Bull – A Mountain Vision
Selected pieces for hardingfele
Bjarne Brustad – Fairy-tail for violin (solo)
Edvard Grieg – Solveig’s Song (from the ‘Peer Gynt’ suite)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – Melody for violin and piano Op.42 No.3
Nikolai Medtner – Sonata Reminiscenza Op.38 (from ‘Forgotten Melodies’
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky – (arr. Mikhail Pletnev ) – Intermezzo (from ‘The Nutcracker Suite’)
Igor Frolov (from George Gershwin) – Concert Fantasy on Themes from ‘Porgy and Bess’
 

December 2016 – upcoming classical gigs – piano & violin duets from Emre Engin & Jennifer Hughes in London (1st); Psappha soloists play Stylianos Dimou, Reich, Maxwell Davies and more in Manchester (3nd), café gigs for Philharmonia Orchestra members in London (9th, 13th)

29 Nov

Four classical gigs for December…

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Emre Engin & Jennifer Hughes: ‘A Journey to the Musical Plateaus’
1901 Arts Club, 7 Exton Street, Waterloo, London, SE1 8UE, England
Thursday 1st December 2016, 6.30pm
information

With this 1901 Club chamber recital, violinist Emre Engin quietly caps the first phase of an exciting international career (which began with his studies at the Uludag University State Conservatory in Anatolia, Turkey, and has moved through the Royal College of Music in London and the Manhattan School of Music in New York to his current status as in-demand, prize-winning London-based soloist, trio leader and educator). As well as music by Bach, Prokofiev and Paganini, the concert includes the world premiere of Emre’s own first significant composition ‘A piece for violin and piano (in memoriam of an unborn child)’.

Emre is accompanied by another prize-winning musician – pianist Jennifer Hughes. A Park Lane Group Artist and cross-Europe performer specialising in duo accompaniment and piano songs, Jennifer (reknowned for her skill as a supportive musician) also coaches work at the Royal College of Music, Aldeburgh Young Musicians, New Virtuosi Mastercourse and Voksenåsen Summer Academy.


 
Programme:

Johann Sebastian Bach – Solo Sonata No.2 in A minor (incorporating the Fuga by Alfred Schnittke)
Emre Engin – A piece for violin and piano (in memoriam of an unborn child) (world premiere)
Nicolò Paganini – Caprice No.15
Sergei Prokofiev – Violin and Piano Sonata No.2 in D major, Op.94bis

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Psappha, 3rd December 2016

Curated Place/Moving Classics & Psappha present:
Psappha Soloists: ‘Metallics’
St Michael’s Church, 36-38 George Leigh Street, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 5DG, England
Saturday 3rd December 2016, 7.30pm
information

Several of the players from Manchester contemporary classical ensemble Psappha congregate in their hometown for a concert of current music. “Featuring emerging composers alongside established twentieth century greats the programme has been curated to showcase Psappha’s virtuoso musicians in an eclectic mix of music that – along with tape and electronics – explores the sonorities of each individual instrument. The centrepiece of this performance is the world première of Stylianos Dimou‘s ‘Metallics’, in which acoustic sounds undergo electronic transformation resulting in the assembly of sonic twins.”

Programme:

Steve Reich – Cello Counterpoint (for cello and multitrack tape)
Peter Maxwell Davies – Sonatina (for violin & cimbalom)
Helmut Lachenmann – Toccatina (for solo violin)
Jonathan Harvey – Tombeau de Messiaen (for piano and electronics)
Tom Harrold – Speechless Skies (for solo cello)
Nuria Bonet Filella – Pota (for cimbalom and electronics)
Charlotte Bray – Oneiroi (for solo piano)
Stylianos Dimou – Metallics (world première)

Performers:
Benjamin Powell (piano)
Tim Williams (cimbalom)
Benedict Holland (violin)
Jennifer Langridge (cello)

Below is a videoclip of an Psapphas renderings of one of the pieces on the bill, to give you an idea of how the concert will run. As for the Stylianos Dimou piece, here’s a soundclip of an earlier, recently-recorded ensemble piece which probably has little to do with the form and execution of ‘Metallics’ but which does provide a window on his “conception of structure as a fluid and sculpted entity that can be conceived as a byproduct of microscopic manipulation of the timbral and gestural dimensions of music” expressed via “blurred sonorities, harmonic fluidity and gestural formation.”



 

* * * * * * * *

Philharmonia Orchestra chamber players (photo © Marina Vidor)

Philharmonia Orchestra chamber players (photo © Marina Vidor)

Back down in London, various musicians from the Philharmonia Orchestra are playing a pair of evening/late-night shows at Brasserie Zédel. While the big January show’s already sold out, tickets are still available for a couple of smaller December shows featuring subdivisions of the orchestra.

The first of the two shows offers “a unique opportunity to hear members of the cello section in this late night show in an eclectic mix of music, imbued with virtuosity, soaring melodies and infectious dance rhythms”, featuring pieces by Mozart, Wagner, Nicolò Paganini and Astor Piazzola, as well as the lesser-known but compositionally prolific German cellist-composer Julius Klengel (who produced hundreds of etudes and solo works for the instrument during his late nineteenth/early twentieth-century lifetime). The concert will also feature a newer piece by Philharmonia-affiliated contemporary British composer Richard Birchall – ‘Viral’, a five-minute cello quartet.

In the second show, violinist Emily Davis, viola player Gijs Kramers and cellist Maria Zachariadou will perform Dmitry Sitkovetsky‘s string trio arrangement of Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’.

Live At Zédel presents:
Philharmonia Orchestra cello section
Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, London W1F 7ED, England
Friday 9th December 2016, 10.00pm
information

Live At Zédel presents:
Members of the Philharmonia Orchestra
Brasserie Zédel, 20 Sherwood Street, Soho, London W1F 7ED, England
Tuesday 13th December 2016, 7.00pm
information
 

November 2016 – upcoming London classical gigs – The Riot Ensemble play Mark Simpson/Jack Sheen/Tigran Mansurian premieres plus Morton Feldman, Mark Bowden and Anna Meredith for ‘The Viola in my Life’ (21st); Clara Rodríguez & TangOpera Duo’s ‘Great Latin American Composers’ featuring Antonio Estévez and Alberto Ginastera, plus Villa-Lobos, Cervantes and Ruiz (24th)

20 Nov

A very quick note on two upcoming shows:

* * * * * * * *

The Riot Ensemble presents:
The Riot Ensemble: ‘The Viola in my Life’
The Forge, 3-7 Delancey Street, Camden Town, London, NW1 7NL, England
Monday 21st November 2016, 7.00pm
information

The Riot Ensemble's 'The Viola In My Life', 21st November 2016“Led by a core group of seven musicians, The Riot Ensemble programme a wide array of the new music from across the globe, connecting people to great contemporary music and collaborating with a prestigious roster of guest artists in musician-led and organised performances. One of the few emerging ensembles in the UK to regularly commission and perform music by international emerging composers, they present the young composers they commission alongside exciting and established music from Bach to Birtwistle.

“This performance – The Viola in my Life’ – features Riot’s new Artistic Board Member Stephen Upshaw, who programmed this concert alongside fellow rioters Sarah Mason & Claudia Maria Racovicean.”

Programme:

Mark Simpson – New Work for Solo Viola (world premiere)
Morton Feldman – The Viola in My Life 3 (for viola and piano)
Mark Bowden – Hoist (for solo percussion)
Jack Sheen – Each One Cancels Out the Last (for viola, piano and tape) (world premiere)
Anna Meredith – Flex (for solo percussion)
Tigran Mansurian – Duet (for viola and percussion) (UK premiere)

Performers:

Stephen Upshaw – viola
Sarah Mason – percussion
Claudia Maria Racovicean – piano

* * * * * * * *

Clara Rodriguez' 'Great Latin American Composers', 24th November 2016Iberian & Latin American Music Society presents:
Echoes Festival: Clara Rodríguez & Friends – ‘Great Latin American Composers’
Bolívar Hall, 54 Grafton Way, Fitzrovia, London, W1T 5DL, England
Thursday 24th November 2016, 7.30pm
information

“Venezuelan virtuoso pianist Clara Rodríguez joins forces with TangOpera Duo to mark the centenary of her compatriot, composer Antonio Estévez (1916-1988) with a concert showcasing his works for piano and voice as part of a vibrant programme of piano pieces by some of the giants of Latin American classical music, including the seminal Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera (Argentina) (1916-1983), who also celebrates his centenary this year.

“Antonio Estévez is one of the most important Venezuelan composers of the 20th century, known especially for his ‘Cantata criolla’ and ‘Mediodía en el llan’o, recorded by the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra in 2008. A leading light of the Parisian-Venezuelan avant garde, Estévez’s music stands out for its rare beauty and profound originality. In Clara Rodríguez, Estévez has a longstanding ambassador for his legacy – her successful campaign to establish his output on the ABRSM 2015-2016 exam syllabus saw his music performed by thousands of pianists in the UK.

Heard here alongside some of Latin America’s most famous composers, such as Villa-Lobos (Brazil) and Cervantes (Cuba), this event places Estévez firmly amongst the panoply of Latin America’s ‘great’ composers. If you are unfamiliar with his music, this programme will be a revelation.”

Programme:

Antonio Estévez – 17 Piezas infantiles
Antonio Estévez – Songs (Selection)
Heitor Villa-Lobos – Bachianas brasileiras No. 4 (Selection)
Heitor Villa-Lobos – Ciclo brasileiro (Selection)
Alberto Ginastera – Three Argentinean Dances
Alberto Ginastera – Dos canciones Op. 3
Ignacio Cervantes – Three Cuban Dances
Federico Ruiz – Encuentro de Antonio y Florentino

Performers:

Clara Rodríguez – piano
TangOpera Duo – soprano & piano
William Roberts – actor
Timothy Adès – translator-poet
 

November 2016 – upcoming London classical gigs – Shadwell Opera’s Schoenberg and Turnage one-woman psychodramas (4th, 5th); more contrabass flute from Carla Rees at IKLECTIK (5th); Conway Hall’s London Festival of Bulgarian Culture chamber concerts (6th, 13th)

3 Nov

A quick sprint, and some quicker comments, through some imminent (and not-quite-so-imminent) classical performances about to take place in the Smoke. (One day I’ll get all of this stuff up well in advance. One day…)

* * * * * * * *

Shadwell Opera's ‘Erwartung/Twice Through The Heart’, 4th & 5th November 2016

Shadwell Opera presents:
‘Erwartung/Twice Through The Heart’
Hackney Showroom, Hackney Downs Studios, Amhurst Terrace, Hackney, London, E8 2BT, England
Friday 4th & Saturday 5th November 2016, 7.30pm
– information here

“A disused mine. You mime.

“The same sentence. The sound gets stuck.

“Life. Life.

Shadwell Opera present a dazzling double-bill of one woman psychodramas: ‘Erwartung’ by Arnold Schoenberg and ‘Twice Through The Heart’ by Mark-Anthony Turnage. Separated in the writing by ninety years, these two monodramas (both to words by female librettists, Marie Pappenheim and Jackie Kay) break apart and reconstitute the mind of an isolated woman in extraordinary stream-of-consciousness narrations.

“Directed by Shadwell Opera’s artistic director Jack Furness and associate director Celine Lowenthal, and conducted by musical director Finnegan Downie Dear, this programme will feature the role debuts of the exciting operatic talents Madeleine Pierard and Kate Howden.”

Here’s a little more information, courtesy of the ‘Planet Hugill‘ classical music blog (which tipped me off to the fact that these were being performed).

“Schoenberg’s ‘Erwartung’ was written in 1909 with a libretto by Marie Pappenheim, but had to wait until 1924 to receive its first performance when Alexander Zemlinsky conducted it in Prague. Schoenberg said of the work ‘In ‘Erwartung’ the aim is to represent in slow motion everything that occurs during a single second of maximum spiritual excitement, stretching it out to half an hour.’

“Mark-Anthony Turnage’s ‘Twice Through The Heart’ was written between 1994 and 1996, and revised subsequently and received its first performance in 1997. The libretto, by Jackie Kay, is based on a 1992 poetry documentary which she had written for the BBC.”

* * * * * * * *

Contraventions, 5th November 2016

rarescale presents:
‘Contraventions – new music for contrabass flute’ with Carla Rees
IKLECTIK, Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Lane, Waterloo, London, SE1 7LG, England
Saturday 5 November 2016 (workshop 4.00pm-7.00pm; concert 8.00pm)
information

“UK-based low flutes player Carla Rees tours a concert of new music for contrabass flute and electronics. The contrabass flute is a rare instrument, most usually found in flute choirs, but in this programme it takes on a new solo persona. It is both impressive in sound and size, and complimented by electronics this concert will be a sonic delight of rarely heard music. The concert will feature premiere performances of several new pieces, including music by Matthew Whiteside, Piers Tattersall, Benjamin Tassie and Michael Oliva.

“Carla is the artistic director of rarescale (an ensemble which exists to promote chamber music repertoire for low flutes), and director of low flutes publishing company Tetractys. She has been working closely with Michael and Matthew along with other composers who are writing new works for the tour.

“From 4.00pm to 7.00pm there will be a workshop for composers to explore writing for the contrabass flute. Composers are invited to bring sketches or new works to try out (scores can also be submitted to Carla in advance), and all their questions about the instrument will be answered during the afternoon. The entry fee for the workshop includes entry to the concert.”

* * * * * * * *

As part of the fourth London Festival of Bulgarian Culture, the organisers of the Ethical Society and Sunday Concerts at Conway Hall are putting on three chamber music concerts, which they’re calling “a musical journey along the Danube: through Bulgaria and beyond.” Each of these will feature at least one Bulgarian work (alongside other items from the classical repertoire which have at least a glancing connection with the country or the river) and be performed primarily by British-based Bulgarian musicians plus compatriots from abroad and sympathetic colleagues from Britain and elsewhere.

To be honest, if you took the players out of the equation, the Bulgarian connection would be tenuous. Leaving aside the fact that the universality of the Haydn, Schubert, Brahms and Mozart pieces chosen for the programme has almost rendered them a common world possession, the inclusion of works by the Hungarian Dohnányi, the Czechoslovakian Drdla and the intensely Czech Dvořák and Smetana means that the concerts fade into an amorphous Danubian appreciation of late classical and romantic string music, perhaps with some of its attention towards eastern Europe, but with its centre still fixed on Vienna or Prague rather than Sofia. Only two actual Bulgarian composers are having their works performed – lynchpin twentieth-century classicist/folk integrator Pancho Vladigerov (whose conscientious approach and assured pedagogy made him the mentor to most post-war Bulgarian composers) and contemporary British-Bulgarian composer Dobrinka Tabakova (whose 2002 trio ‘Insight’ is being played during the first concert). In other respects, representation of the home side is pretty slim. No Emanuil Manolov, no Alexandra Fol, no Georgi Atanasov or Albena Petrovic-Vratchanska.

Admittedly, these choices are partly down to the instrumentation and tone chosen for the concert – piano and string pieces from duo to quintet; accessible classical-melodicism; the warmer, more positive folk-culture-inspired end of small-state nationalism. Quibbles aside, it’s a good opportunity to hear the Vladigerov pieces (beloved Bulgarian staples which don’t tend to travel much outside the country) and the diverse pedigree of the players contributing to this collective and cooperative effort is encouraging and heartening, as well as impressive. Should be a good set of shows.

London Festival of Bulgarian Culture: Concert 1
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1R 4RL, London
Sunday 6th November 2016, 5:30 pm
– information here and here

Programme:

Pre-concert talk by pianist and music commentator Michael Round (at 5.30pm in the Brockway Room)
Franz Joseph Haydn – Piano Trio in G Hob.XV:25 ‘Gypsy’
František Drdla – Souvenir & Serenade in A major
Dobrinka Tabakova – Insight (for string trio)
Fritz Kreisler – La Gitana & Schön Rosmarin (for violin and piano)
Franz Schubert – Quintet in A D667 ‘Trout’ (for string quartet and piano)

Performers:

Julita Fasseva, 2016

Julita Fasseva, 2016

Evgeniy Chevkenov (violin – Professor at Richard Wagner Conservatoire, Vienna)
Devorina Gamalova (viola – Professor at Birmingham Conservatoire)
Alexander Somov (cello – Principal cellist at Strasbourg Philharmonic)
Simon Callaghan (piano – Artistic director of Conway Hall Sunday Concerts)
Julita Fasseva (double bass – member of Royal Flemish Philharmonic)

London Festival of Bulgarian Culture: Concert 2
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1R 4RL, London
Sunday 13th November 2016, 6:30 pm
– information here and here

Programme:

Ernö Dohnányi – Serenade for string trio Op.10
Bedřich Smetana – Macbeth and the Witches (for solo piano)
Pancho Vladigerov – Bulgarian Rhapsody ‘Vardar’ Op.16
Johannes Brahms – Piano Quintet in F minor Op.34

Performers:

Ashley Wass, 2016 (photo  © Patrick Allen)

Ashley Wass, 2016 (photo © Patrick Allen)

Pavel Minev (violin- Soloist of Moscow State Philharmonic)
Ivo Stankov (violin – Artistic director of LFBC)
Alexander Zemtsov (viola – Professor at Guildhall School of Music)
Guy Johnston (cello – Winner of ‘BBC Musician of the year’ competition),
Ashley Wass (piano – Laureate at Leeds International Piano Competition)

London Festival of Bulgarian Culture: Concert 3
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Bloomsbury, London, WC1R 4RL, London
Sunday 20th November 2016, 6:30 pm
– information here and here

Programme:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Sonata for Violin and Piano in B flat K454
Pancho Vladigerov – Piano Trio Op.4
Antonín Dvořák – Piano Quintet in A Op.81

Performers:

Ludmil Angelov, 2016

Ludmil Angelov, 2016

Dimitar Burov (violin, Head of Strings at Harrow School, programme supervisor)
Yana Burov (violin, Leader of ‘Inspirity’ String Quartet)
Michael Gieler (viola, Principal at Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra),
Gerard Le Feuvre (cello, Director of Kings Chamber Orchestra)
Ludmil Angelov (piano, Laureate of International Chopin Piano Competition)
 

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