Tag Archives: Emer McDonough

February 2019 – upcoming London classical gigs plus previews – Edmund Finnis premieres new piano trio on Britten Sinfonia English mini-tour (12th,13th, 15th February) – plus looks at Edmund’s imminent ‘The Air, Turning’ album and Markus Reuter’s imminent ‘Heartland’ album

8 Feb

A new Edmund Finnis composition is doing the rounds on a Britten Sinfonia micro-tour next week, taking in concerts in Cambridge, London and Norwich. The piece is a piano trio nestled in amongst a programme of compositions which examine chamber music’s historical connection to, and evolution from, Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 1. Starting with this sonata, the concert progresses through Leoš Janáček’ ‘Pohádka’ and Olivier Messiaen’s ‘Le merle noir’, with the piano trio then preceding a performance of Bohuslav Martinů’s ‘Sonata for flute, violin and piano’. The performers are flautist Emer McDonough, violinist Thomas Gould, cellist Caroline Dearnley and pianist Huw Watkins.

I can’t find a title – or indeed, much more context and background – for the piano trio beyond this, although all will probably be revealed at the time. At the London date, Edmund’s also providing more details in a ticketed public talk with Dr Kate Kennedy before the concert begins. I’ve previously noted his compositional style as “flow(ing) from the luminously minimal to frenetically eerie orchestral jousts”, so he should have plenty to talk about.

Britten Sinfonia: At Lunch 2 2018-2019 – Bach, Janácek, Messiaen, Finnis and Martinu

  • West Road Concert Hall, 11 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DP, England – Monday 12th February 2019, 1.00pm – information here, here, here and here
  • Wigmore Hall, 36 Wigmore Street, Marylebone, London, W1U 2BP, England – Wednesday 13th February 2019, 1.00pm
    – information here, here and here (Edmund Finnis in conversation with Dr Kate Kennedy, 12.15pm – free event – information here)
  • St Andrew’s Hall @ The Halls, St Andrew’s Plain, Norwich, NR3 1AU, England – Friday 15th February 2019, 1.00pm – information here, here and here

Edmund Finnis: 'The Air, Turning'

Edmund Finnis: ‘The Air, Turning’

Meanwhile, the first recorded collection of Edmund’s compositions – ‘The Air, Turning’, which has been six years in the making – is out on 9th February on NMC Recordings. Besides the sensual title composition (an orchestral work inspired by the concept of how music’s sound vibrations thrum and manipulate the atmosphere around us), it includes five other Finnis works. There’s the slow-ringing string orchestra piece ‘Between Rain’ (as performed at the Roundhouse and at ‘Organ Reframed‘ in 2016); the crepuscular, haunting ‘Shades Lengthen’ violin concerto; the blossoming ensemble work ‘Parallel Colour’ (in which clarinet, piano, strings and percussion drip and swell like heavy dew in an unexpected spot of bluster) and his ‘Four Duets’ for clarinet and piano.

Players include the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the London Contemporary Orchestra, violinist Eloisa-Fleur Thom and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. The more electronic/electrophonic side of Edmund’s work isn’t really present (for a few examples of that, visit his Soundcloud page), but it’s nodded to via the violin-plus-reverb concert hall piece ‘Elsewhere’ (which was touched on in here around two years ago when I plugged its second ever performance by Daniel Pioro). All in all, it’s exciting music – simultaneously translucent, muscular and subtly cerebral, with a rare quality of mystique and engagement.


 
* * * * * * * *

Seeing that I’ve drawn myself into writing about Edmund’s album, I’ll add something about Markus Reuter’s upcoming string quartet project ‘Heartland’. This isn’t out on record for a couple of months but has just begun to tease on Bandcamp, although Markus was good enough to send me the whole recording this week to listen to. This isn’t the first time Markus has created music which has disengaged from his usual electrophonic world of direct sound-processing and touch guitar, or in which he hasn’t felt the requirement to be present as performer. That would have been the orchestral version of ‘Todmorden 513’ a few years ago: a dense slowly-evolving soundpool built from algorithmic processes, assuming a vast, eerie and slightly melancholic ritual character to overlay its logical progression.

Markus Reuter, 2017 (photo © Dutch Rall)

Markus Reuter, 2017 (photo © Dutch Rall)

Across the sixty minutes and eight sections of ‘Heartland’, algorithmic processes are once again the driving engines: mathematics lurk within the extended composition, with fractals, magic squares, and other numerical devices defining its elegant form. The piece, however (beautifully recorded in Berlin’s Kirche Zum Heiligen Kreuz, Berlin last October by the Matangi Quartet) brings more to the listener than an appreciation of structures. Beyond the initial brain-tickle, it seems that different listeners are inspired into different psychoactive responses. Active voyages of discovery seem to be a common theme. Various sleevenote contributors compare the journey through ‘Heartland’ to a Jungian river-ride through the collective subconscious, or to a Kubrickian Star Gate trip; while in the teaser video, Matangi violinist Maria-Paula Majoor appreciates the essential character of ‘Heartland’ as being “contemplative, maybe, (but) not very sure… I like that, in music… I think it’s nice to feel there is a doubt…that also gives the space for interpretation, and also for the listener to create (their) own interpretation”, and cellist Arno van der Vuurst comments that the music seems to be “searching for something”.


 
On a superficial level, ‘Heartland’ sometimes also suggests a bridge between the technical perfection of Bach baroque and the programmatic patterning of New York minimalism. It’s true that that particular bridge has already taken some heavy traffic, and from many different composers; but in Markus’ case he seems to have built his own separate bridge across the same river, and it’s only a part of the architecture and living space which the piece enables – it’s by no means its raison d’être. For initial promotion, Markus has mostly restricted himself to talking about translating processes into music, and about how his algorithmic/fractal note rows (and what progresses from them) work like carefully decorated modes or ragas; but the twinkle in his eyes suggests more. On the literary side, there are explicit references to Scarlett Thomas, short stories and sad goodbyes, and implicit ones to Thomas Mann: Markus also talks about “music that is there already and only needs to be uncovered”, and he’s clearly revelling in his opportunity to go wherever he wants and that “people want to be surprised, and they kind of like the fact that I’m an explorer.”

Matangi Quartet: 'Markus Reuter: String Quartet No. 1 'Heartland''

Matangi Quartet: ‘Markus Reuter: String Quartet No. 1 ‘Heartland”

Due to my own circumstances, I often find that I have to run much of my music-listening time in parallel with entirely unassociated work time. In some cases this works fine: the higher levels of my brain are usually bored with lying fallow while other tasks have to be done, and the business of processing and appreciating music occupies brain space which would otherwise make me rattle and rebel. However, I do find that certain kinds of music are tougher to listen to. Much of contemporary classical music is too immediately information-dense, too neurotically intellectual – and, in a strange way, simultaneously too directly assertive and too demandingly needy for to be able to split my attention while listening to it. (Oddly enough, I have a similar response to hip hop).

‘Heartland’ is certainly full of coding, but when I ran it through the mill of listening necessity I’ve described above – while concentrating fiercely on a pile up of day-job things which needed to be fixed – I found that it also had surprisingly calming qualities. In particular, it had qualities of order – as if the pulse and pitching of the music was putting things right without relying on the usual structural/dramatic clichés to which I respond. While ‘Heartland’ is full of detail and mechanism, and while Markus is particularly open about that, much of its devicery is camouflaged: the piece does not anxiously assert its complexity and importance. Instead, I found it subtle and confident in its own intelligence, like the workings of a brain; not the chaotic, nervy dramatisation of an unbalanced mind, but something more Apollonian, with a matter-of-fact humanity. On this particular pass I didn’t feel skilled enough to analyse everything in it, but from the off I felt the structures and the processes… and also felt that I was somehow sharing in them.

This might not be a purely rational conclusion (and a different week might produce a different flexion of the imagination) but for now I’m sticking to it. Perhaps, beyond its number processes, ‘Heartland’ is a self-contained flexible map for an inner journey; perhaps, for me, it works as a set of complex mental debugging routines generated and given impetus by the chug of bow on string and the singing self-contained musicality that’s propelled string quartets in common for three centuries (and which has built a proportion of my own responses for about a sixth of that time). To these ears, this mind, ‘Heartland’ is a generous piece. It inspires a kind of serenity, even a kind of hope.

‘Heartland’ is out on Solaire Records on 12th April, and can be pre-ordered here and here.


 

February 2016 – upcoming classical gigs in the south and east of England – Britten Sinfonia tour Debussy, Donatoni, Takemitsu, Jolivet and a Daníel Bjarnason premiere; Busch Piano Trio play Brahms, Schubert and Loevendie

12 Feb

Some more classical music performances in England this month.

* * * * * * * *

The Britten Sinfonia return for the second of this year’s (and the third overall) ‘At Lunch’ concert series of mid-day performances across the east of England, this time managing to stretch as far as the south coast.

Britten Sinfonia presents ‘At Lunch Three’

Daníel Bjarnason (photo by Samantha West)

Daníel Bjarnason (photo by Samantha West)

Programme:

Claude Debussy – Syrinx
Franco Donatoni – Small II
Daníel Bjarnason – new work (world premiere tour)
Franco Donatoni – Marches
Claude Debussy – Sonata for flute, viola and harp (L137)

amended setlist for Southampton adds:

André Jolivet – Petite Suite
Toru Takemitsu – And Then I Knew ‘Twas Wind

Performers:

Emer McDonough (flute)
Clare Finnimore (viola)
Lucy Wakeford (harp)

“The combination of flute, viola and harp may not be the most familiar trio ensemble, but it is one that certainly lends itself to the rich exploration of colour and harmonies that is typical of Debussy’s output. A deeply expressive curiosity in soundscapes and association with visual art also features in the compositions of Icelandic composer Daníel Bjarnason, whose new work features alongside that of Debussy in this programme.”

The London and Cambridge gigs include an “in conversation” event (a pre-concert discussion on Daníel Bjarnason’s new work) before the concert at 12.15pm in London, or after the concert at 2.15pm in Cambridge. Tickets are free but must be booked in advance in London, and are only available to concert ticket holders in Cambridge.

* * * * * * * *

Back in Norwich, there’s a promising trio concert…

Busch Trio, 2016

(Norfolk & Norwich Chamber Music Festival presents:
The Busch Trio
John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Colney Lane, Norwich, NR4 7UH, England
Saturday 20th February 2016, 7.30pm
more information

“Named after the legendary violinist Adolf Busch and inspired by trio member Mathieu van Bellen’s possession of Busch’s 1783 J.B. Guadagnini violin, the London-based Busch Trio – previously The Busch Ensemble – are emerging as one of the leading young piano trios among the new generation, receiving enthusiastic responses from audiences and critics across the UK and Europe. Recognised for their achievements and the “incredible verve” of their playing, they were winners of the 2012 Royal Overseas League Competition and went on to win several prizes including 2nd prize and the recording prize at the 2012 Salieri-Zinetti International Chamber Music Competition and the 3rd prize at the 2013 Pinerolo International Chamber Music Competition in Italy as well as the 2nd prize at the International Schumann Chamber Music Award in Frankfurt.

Since its formation in 2012 highlights of the Trio’s performances in the UK have included the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Sage Gateshead and a critically acclaimed appearance at Wigmore Hall. They have also given concerts in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Denmark. The trio enjoys the support of the Tunnell Trust, the Kirckman Concert Society, the Park Lane Group and the Cavatina Chamber Music Trust, as well as being awarded the MMSF Philharmonia Orchestra Ensemble Award. Most recently they have completed the prestigious ChamberStudio Mentorship Programme, which has offered them teaching from some of the world’s leading musicians. They are currently receiving guidance from members of the Artemis Quartet at the Queen Elizabeth Music Chapel in Brussels.”

This concert includes a pre-concert discussion with the trio members at 6.30pm. In addition to two familiar Romantic-era classics, the programme includes a performance of ‘Ackermusik’ by jazz/Eastern-cultures-inspired Dutch composer Theo Loevendie (which Loevendie notes is “written in a mosaic form of five repetitive elements” and which possibly, though not explicitly, pays tribute to the low, breathy vibrato clarinet stylings of late British trad-jazzer Acker Bilk).

Programme:

Theo Loevendie – Ackermusik
Johannes Brahms – Piano Trio No. 2 in C major Op. 87
Franz Schubert – Piano Trio No 2 in E flat D929

Performers:

Omri Epstein – piano
Mathieu van Bellen – violin
Ori Epstein – cello

Here’s a recent recording of the Busch Trio performing the third (Poc adagio) movement of Dvorak’s Piano Trio in F minor, op.65, as well as a previous performance of ‘Ackermusic’ by the Van Baerle Trio.

* * * * * * * *

More gig news shortly, including William D. Drake in Italy and Louis Barrabas on the rampage across Scotland and northern England.

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