Bangor New Music festival

Bangor New Music festival, held under the auspices of the university’s School of Music, celebrated its 10th anniversary with its most ambitious programme to date, and no concert signalled the event’s energy and range better than the one given by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and featuring three firsts.

The school boasts three notable composers – Pwyll ap Siôn, Andrew Lewis and Guto Puw – and works by them made up the challenging first half. Ap Siôn’s Gwales, dating from 1995, pays homage to the late William Mathias, under whose aegis music flourished at Bangor. Building on fragments quoted from Mozart’s Requiem, the work depicts a journey towards the mythical island of Gwales.

In the first of the new pieces, Andrew Lewis also took us on a journey, this time in and out of consciousness. Number Nine Dream explored the first movement of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony through the hazy veil of the contemporary electro-acoustic sound-world, making for an absorbing aural experience.

Read the full article in the Guardian here.

Peter Gabriel, The O2 Arena, London

When the O2 Arena was infamous as the Millennium Dome, Peter Gabriel’s music for its central show was one of its redeeming features, but the experience still left him feeling bruised. So he was brave, this weekend, to bring a new concept to the same venue. Scratch My Back, his most recent CD, is a set of cover versions, all performed with an orchestra. “No guitars, no drums,” runs its severe rubric.

The first half of the concert ran through the CD, in order, note for note and fault for fault. Some songs, notably Bowie’s “Heroes” and Paul Simon’s “The Boy In The Bubble”, are enervated by being stripped of pomp and swagger, although the former had a colourful passage of Reichian pulsing strings. Elbow’s “Mirrorball” has contorted melodies through which Gabriel would have sailed in his days with Genesis, but the kitschy orchestration muffled the key line: “We kissed like we invented it.” “The Book Of Love”, which in any case walks a fine line between the sincere and the sardonic, was trampled to death by headache-inducing cartoons.

But a couple survived. “My Body is a Cage”, originally by The Arcade Fire, had its relentless oppression screwed home with tiny taps of the triangle, while the backdrop flared with pictures of a throbbing atomic nucleus orbited by barbed wire. And “Listening Wind”, a newly topical Talking Heads song about insurgency and terrorism, grew spiky staccato string polyrhythms.

Read the full review in Financial Times here.

Zehetmair Quartet, Wigmore Hall, review

By Ivan Hewett

There are few string quartets I would bet I could spot in a blind test, but the Zehetmair Quartet is one. It’s not an ingratiating sound they make, but it is certainly hyper-alert, every phrase and every textural detail weighed and scrubbed clean of routine.

Combined with their appearance – all in black, with no music stands (the quartet plays from memory) – that sound tells you you’re in for something serious. That quality was especially vivid in Mozart’s slender G-major quartet, written when the composer was only 16. So much of its music consists of beautifully turned rococo clichés laid end to end, but they were so vividly characterised by the players that they seemed weighty and interesting.

After the Mozart came something genuinely dense, the 2nd quartet by the great Swiss oboist and composer Heinz Holliger.

Read the full review in The Telegraph here.

Listen to the 1st string quartet here:

John Adams' 'Nixon in China' is no longer neglected

As a subject for books, plays and films, Nixon, who died in 1994, remains ever fascinating. China, of course, has been ever on our minds. But the [John Adams] opera [Nixon in China] faded from the limelight, remaining on the fringes. Over the past two decades it has had the occasional small-scale production in Europe, along with a mounting by English National Opera in London of Sellars’ production, which proved a surprise hit. As far as Nixon’s homeland has been concerned, we’ve been stuck with the trivial, jokey production by James Robinson, first given by Opera Theater of St. Louis in 2004 and since making the rounds of several, mostly midsized, American companies, such as Opera Colorado, Chicago Opera Theatre and Portland Opera.

But now “Nixon” is back and big time.


Kronos Quartet performing new work by J.G. Thirwell

Kronos Quartet
Margaret Leng Tan
Victor Gama


Zankel Hall (Seating Chart)
Friday, March 12, 2010 at 7:30 PM

Tickets from $28 – $42

Using an orchestra of toys, instruments constructed from remnant military materials by children from Angola, and technology capable of capturing tones emitted by the desert, Kronos revisits the joy in discovering new sounds through new means. The program features toy piano virtuoso Margaret Leng Tan and Portuguese instrument builder Victor Gama, and a new work for Kronos by J. G. Thirlwell inspired by environmental acoustic phenomena. To conclude the evening, Kronos is joined by electronic duo Matmos, for a tribute to Terry Riley.

The Program

Kronos Quartet
·· David Harrington, Violin
·· John Sherba, Violin
·· Hank Dutt, Viola
·· Jeffrey Zeigler, Cello
Margaret Leng Tan, Toy Piano, Toy Orchestra, and Vocals
Victor Gama, Pangeia Instrumentos
·· Drew Daniel, Electronics
·· M.C. Schmidt, Electronics

Program / Program Notes / The Artists

[via Alexander Natas]


Luigi Nono: Out of the Shadows

Although many consider him one of the most significant musical figures of the 20th century, American audiences still haven’t caught up to Luigi Nono. The Italian composer — a leader in the postwar avant-garde, and a contemporary of Boulez and Stockhausen — remains something of an enigma in the West.

The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players venture where others fear to tread. The ensemble’s March 1 program at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, which features Nono’s late-life masterwork, La lontananza nostalgica utopica futura, may represent the sole opportunity to hear the composer’s music performed in the Bay Area this season.

Nono, who was born in Venice in 1924 and died there in 1990, was often at the forefront of the 20th century’s musical developments. Beginning in the 1950s, his early works blazed a trail through pointillism and serialism; his first major work, The Canonic Variations, is based on a tone row from Arnold Schoenberg’s Ode to Napoleon (in 1955, Nono married Schoenberg’s daughter, Nuria). Nono’s overt preoccupation with politics contributed to anti-Fascist works such as Il canto sospeso in the 1950s and ’60s and a pioneering use of electronica in the ’70s. The 1980s saw the composer creating mature works, including the string quartet Fragmente – Stille, An Diotima and Caminates … Ayacucho for contralto, flute, choirs, orchestra, and live electronics. The opera Prometo, the finest expression of his “theatre of consciousness,” is Nono’s masterwork.

Read the full article in San Francisco Classical Voice here.

Nico Muhly in Concertgebouw tonight

Britten Sinfonia
Pekka Kuusisto, viool/leiding
Mark Padmore, tenor
Jacqueline Shave, viool

* Purcell – Fantasia a 7 in c, Z 738 (arr. N. Muhly)
* Purcell/Muhly – Let the Night Perish (Job’s Curse), Z 191
* Purcell – Fantasia Upon One Note, a 5 in F, Z 745 (arr. N. Muhly)
* Tippett – A Lament (uit ‘Divertimento on Sellinger’s Round’)
* Britten – Les illuminations, op. 18
* Reich – Duet
* Muhly – Impossible Things
* J. Adams – Shaker Loops (Version for String Orchestra)

Voorafgaand aan het concert in de Grote Zaal zullen Pekka Kuusisto en Nico Muhly worden geïnterviewd.
Aanvang: 19.35 uur, Spiegelzaal. Reserveren is niet nodig.

The Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet @ University Of Texas In Austin

January 27, 2010, 8:00 pm
McCullough Theatre

“Superb…Pure-toned instrumental textures, smoothly blended ensemble and sterling musicianship…marvelous.” – Chicago Tribune

The Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet (Philharmonisches Bläserquintett Berlin) has virtually redefined the sound of the classical wind quintet bringing extraordinary artistic skill, passion and gravitas to world stages. With wind instruments’ hallmark lightness and exuberance, the members of this elite musical group succeed in providing a unity in tone that is both powerful and beautiful. Founded in 1988, during the era of Herbert von Karajan, this was the first permanently established wind quintet in the renowned orchestra’s rich tradition of chamber music.

W. A. Mozart: Fantasy f-minor KV 608 for a mechanical organ
Arranged by Michael Hasel
Anton Reicha: Quintet in D Major
Op. 91, No. 3
Samuel Barber:   Summer music, Op. 31
Carl Nielsen: Quintet Op.43_

Berliner Philharmoniker, Zoltan Pesko, RIAS Kammerchor, Quintetto pro Arte René Giessen

Mon  24. January 2000  8 pm
Tue  25. January 2000  8 pm
Wed  26. January 2000  8 pm

Berliner Philharmoniker
Zoltan Pesko Dirigent
Quintetto pro Arte René Giessen Mundharmonika
Zoltan Kocsis Klavier
RIAS Kammerchor

György Kurtág
Messages op. 34
New Messages op. 34a
Franz Liszt
Klavierkonzert Nr. 1 Es-Dur
György Kurtág
… quasi una fantasia op. 27
Boris Blacher
Orchestervariationen über ein Thema von Paganini op. 26

London Chamber Orchestra Concert 3 – Wednesday 27 January

With LCO’s concert just a week away, make sure you have secured your tickets! Please see below for details and how to book.

Wednesday 27 January 2010, 7.30pm
St. John’s, Smith Square

Wagner Siegfried Idyll
Haydn Cello Concerto No.1 in C
Brahms Symphony No.3 in F

Christopher Warren-Green
Pavel Gomziakov cello

Tickets £10 – £25 Book Now

Programme notes are available online now