Holt
…era madrugada
Kites

Members of the Philharmonia Orchestra
André de Ridder
Julian Anderson’s first season as Artistic Director of Music of Today leapt off the page in terms of composer choices. Simon Holt (born 1958) says he owes much to Anthony Gilbert; good to know that Gilbert himself is represented in the next MOT. As ever in these enterprising, early-evening and free concerts, the composer was present to talk about his work. Absent this time was Julian Anderson, no doubt in Birmingham for a performance of his The Crazed Moon (a concert reviewed on this site) – Gillian Moore, Artistic Director of the London Sinfonietta in his stead – and Series Conductor Martyn Brabbins. André de Ridder proved a calm and sympathetic short-notice replacement.
The two pieces of Holt’s played are both twenty years old. While wondering if something more recent could have been chosen to open things out a little, both left an impression. …era madrugada is the first of many Lorca-inspired compositions in Holt’s output. Scored for seven players – viola, cello, double bass, piccolo/flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, horn and piano – this 11-minute creation responds to the “colour, heat and passion” of Lorca’s poetry (Holt then qualified his description as “a cliché”), specifically "Sorpresa", which concerns night and a knifed unknown man. Sounds fluid and scurrying ensue, with an active and pivotal piano part (Michael Round). If this sinisterly atmospheric piece seems more concerned with narrative than structure, its enigma holds the attention. It is recorded on NMC D008.
Kites, for a ten-player ensemble divided equally between winds and strings, is Japanese-inspired and focuses on a “kite fight”. Not your average kite, rather the O-dako variety, which can need 40 people to fly it. From serene open-air evocation to rhythmic ingenuity, the departing woodwind quartet (leaving the horn) plays off-stage at the close to suggest a wholly new sphere of ambient expression. Significant is Holt’s concern for timbre, highlighted when the oboist switches to a cor anglais.
Both these works left a powerful resonance of sound and imagination in these excellent performances, a concert repeated at Leicester’s De Montfort Hall on 4 April at 6.15. As I say, Anthony Gilbert’s the next MOT in London, on 10 April – looking forward to that.

 

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