Tag Archives: music for string quartet

October/November 2019 – upcoming London classical gigs – ‘Venus, Women And The Guitar’ (27th October); Emily Howard curates ‘Ada Lovelace: Imagining The Analytical Engine’ (2nd November); Echo Collective present Jóhann Jóhannsson’s ’12 Conversations with Thilo Heinzmann’ plus Félicia Atkinson (3rd November)

21 Oct

‘Venus, Women and the Guitar’, 27th October 2019As part of London Guitar Festival 2019, the International Guitar Foundation presents ‘Venus, Women and the Guitar’ towards the end of October. A concert celebrating women’s relationship with the guitar, and featuring a wide roster of performers including many significant current female classical guitar players, it also showcases an entire programme of guitar compositions by women.

Of the two main composer contributors, Errollyn Wallen has written plenty of works for guitar over the past two decades as part of a career which includes seventeen operas, music for television and assorted works for chamber instrumentation and large-scale ensembles (as well as a musical willingness to explore both standard classical settings and experiments with tape, placement and other media, plus continual rearrangements of the ideas of how we think about music and its intersections with a broader, more diverse culture).

In addition to the IGF-repertoire Wallen pieces which are being played, she’s contributed two new commissions/premieres. The Housden-Tarlton Duo will be performing ‘Two Guitars’, while Tom KerstensG Plus Ensemble (a two-guitar, string quartet and percussion group, eschewing piano parts in favour of “the unique combination of the guitars’ quickly decaying plucked sounds, the sustained bowed string sound (and) a wide range of vibraphone, marimba and other percussion sounds”) will be performing ‘Road to Strathy Point’. As regards the repertoire pieces, Tom Kerstens returns later in the program to perform the solo Wallen piece ‘Canciones’ while up-and-coming classical guitarist Shannon Latoya Simon will perform a triptych of ‘Three Ships’, ‘Walking Me To Work’ and Night Passage’ (meanwhile, here are the Kerstens versions of a couple of these).



 
The other dominant composer of the evening, Laura Snowden, hasn’t been working for nearly as long but her career’s already moving from strength to strength. Also reknowned as an exceptional and versatile performer on guitar, she’s been described by ‘Classical Guitar Magazine’ as “linking guitar’s past, present and future” and will be performing her own solo piece ‘Anpao; L’étoile et la Rose’.


 
As regards her other pieces, the Mēla Guitar Quartet (Matthew Robinson, George Tarlton, Daniel Bovey, Jiva Housden) will play ‘My Clock Is Broken’ (which they premiered at the Purcell Room earlier in the year); VIDA Guitar Quartet (Mark Eden, Mark Ashford, Amanda Cook, Christopher Stell) will be joining up with concert saxophonist Amy Green to perform ‘Light Perpetuum’; and two VIDA members will be returning in their other configuration as the Eden Stell Guitar Duo to play ‘Damn everything but the circus!; The Snow Globe’.


 
The work of five other female composers will be performed as part of the concert. VIDA’s Amanda Cook will team with violinist Liz Cooney for Effy Efthymiou’s ‘Two Reflections’ of which “(the) elliptical movement and improvisatory feel are designed to create a seductive ambience – almost like being in a dream. The lilting phrases move easily from one time signature to the next, producing a free flow of sound and a subtle feeling of repose. Light interweaving melodies rotate with rough, percussive sonorities to evoke the whole spectrum of feelings that one might experience through reflection.”

Rather magically, Effy is half of a mutually supportive duo of composing twin sisters, along with Litha Efthymiou, and the two compose both together and apart. Litha, too, is represented in this concert. Her piece ‘States Of Ice: Diamond Dust’ (like ‘Two Reflections’, originally a 2012 IGF commission) will be performed by Johan Löfving. It’s “a poetic representation of the ice phenomenon “diamond dust”… its light, ponderous beginning exploits the guitar’s delicate timbral qualities, while the second, more aggressive section is quite percussive in texture, depicting the full gamut of elements that constitute this elusive state of ice.”

Johan will return with his Flauguissimo Duo partner, flautist Yu-Wei Hu, to play another previous IGF commission, Charlotte Bray’s ‘Here everything shines’ (apparently “largely inspired by Cesaria Evora’s ‘Petit Pays’, sung in Cape Verdean Portuguese. The title comes from the translation of the line ‘ki ca ta brilha’, an idea which resonates throughout. A gritty and impassioned fast section opens the piece, the non-stop flute/violin line dashing around being punctuated by stabbing chords on the guitar/piano. The intensity grows until a lush slow section takes over, the melody singing vibrantly over an arpeggiated figure. Similar material to the opening then returns in an extended version, with the piano taking on the fast energetic figure and violin interrupting. Expressive and very free, a quiet section follows. The pace slows and lines glimmer as if caught by rays of sun bouncing off the ocean. Abruptly, the opening material intervenes one final time, with the lively melodic line heard once again in the flute/violin part, the guitar/piano seemingly edging it on.”)

Opening the concert, G Plus Ensemble will be playing Anna Meredith’s ‘Spook (for string quartet, guitar and marimba); and finally, there’ll be another premiere. Kevin Daniel Cahill (G Plus Ensemble’s other guitarist, and a passionate musical emissary and fosterer in his own right) has commissioned and will be performing a Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade piece called ‘Wallflower’. Unlike the evening’s other pieces – resolutely acoustic – this one will feature electric guitar and electronic looping (perhaps capturing in its sonics Ninfea’s love for composing for “old, new, and damaged musical instruments.”)


 
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At Milton Court on 2nd November, as part of the Barbican’s ongoing Life Rewired season, composer Emily Howard will curate ‘Ada Lovelace: Imagining the Analytical Engine’, an afternoon which she devised as “an uncompromising musical tribute to a woman who united the worlds of 19th-century romanticism and cutting-edge science… thinker, computer pioneer and enchantress of numbers…”

The concert will combine words and music to offer a post-millennial perspective on the legacy and achievement of the woman often considered to be one of the world’s first computer programmers and a considerable Victorian mathematician, as well as someone who enthusiastically united the concepts of maths, music and poetry. The Britten Sinfonia and mezzo-soprano Marta Fontanals-Simmons will be performing various specially commissioned works of “scientifically inspired music by Howard and her contemporaries plus music created by artificial intelligence written in tribute to Lovelace.”

‘Ada Lovelace: Imagining the Analytical Engine’, 2nd November 2019

As well as a brand-new Howard world premiere (which I can’t find anything on, but which, under the circumstances, you can expect to be replete with involved and enthusiastic scientific or mathematical references, as much of her other work is), there’ll be a performance of her 2011 speech-song work ‘Ada Sketches’ (for mezzo, flute, clarinet and percussion, with a libretto by Laura Tunbridge in which Lovelace dreams of Babbage’s Difference Engine producing notes instead of numbers).

 
There will also be world premieres of new works by sound artist/composer Patricia Alessandrini, by composer and turntablist Shiva Feshareki, and by Royal Northern College’s PRiSM Team directed by Emily Howard and on this occasion led by Robert Laidlow. There’s not much news or commentary on these either, yet; but you can expect further intersections of orchestral playing with contemporary technology, and with scientific motifs and themes.

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On 3rd November – also at Milton Court – Belgian ensemble Echo Collective will perform the late Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s ‘12 Conversations with Thilo Heinzmann’.

Unfinished at the time of Jóhannsson’s death last year (although an earler or work-in-progress version does seem to have been performed at Conway Hall three years ago), and exploring “arts, politics and unity” and “the communal transfer of artistic ideas beyond borders”, this string quartet piece was inspired by four years of dialogue with Jóhannsson’s friend and German painter Thilo Heinzmann (a sensual minimalist who works with more reluctant materials than most such artists – including unbound pigment, absorbent cotton, styrofoam, fur and porcelain as well as bursts of feather, fossil or other found and planned-in objects – with the aim of expanding technique and of raising the textured work off the flat plane of the canvas to present its details in a more three-dimensional manner). Unusually for a Jóhannsson piece, it doesn’t incorporate electronics, drones or treated instruments; instead relying on the unadorned strings alone.

The work was finished by the Echo Collective under leaders Neil Leiter and Margaret Hermant. Reviewing their studio recording in ‘The Guardian’ last month, John Lewis noted that “the spartan setting often enhances the grave, stately beauty, particularly when Jóhannsson starts to invokes early music. ‘Shell’ resembles a Bach partita played in ultra-slow-motion; ‘Low’ sounds like a Gregorian chant transcribed for strings; ‘Lacrimoso’ is a heartbreaking, Vivaldi-like canon. There are a few moments where Jóhannsson hints at complexity – the baroque waltz ‘Danse’ sees him shifting time signatures to disconcerting effect – and it’s tempting, if a little depressing, to imagine how he might have developed and matured in this setting.”




 
Opening the concert will be French electro-acoustic musician Félicia Atkinson. Previously known as Je suis le petit chevalier, her own compositional voyage was originally rooted in sculpture and visual arts: it has built up from her quiet near-ambient early albums based around guitar and Rhodes electric piano to more detailed and demanding works involving (according to lastmusic.fm) “concrete music, ASMR voices, minimal electronics, field recordings, improvisation with guitar and piano, abstract distortions and infra basses, always held by a strong sense of musical harmony… The problematics of sound installation, multichannel diffusion, and performance are starting to play a key role in her musical practice.”

 
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Dates:

International Guitar Foundation & Kings Place present:
Errollyn Wallen & Laura Snowden (Venus, Women and the Guitar)
Hall Two @ Kings Place, 90 York Way, Kings Cross, London, N1 9AG, England
Sunday 27th October 2019, 3.00pm
– information here and here

Ada Lovelace: Imagining the Analytical Engine
Milton Court Concert Hall @ Guildhall School of Music & Drama, 1 Milton Street, Barbican, London, EC2Y 9BH, England
Saturday 2nd November 2019, 6.30pm
– information here and here

Echo Collective: 12 Conversations with Thilo Heinzmann
Milton Court Concert Hall @ Guildhall School of Music & Drama, 1 Milton Street, Barbican, London, EC2Y 9BH, England
Sunday 3rd November 2019, 7.30pm
– 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.

* * * * * * * *

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)

* * * * * * * *

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’
 

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