... around Stravinsky, Op.72
Marching to Carcassonne, Op.75 [Koussevitzky Music Foundation/London Sinfonietta commission: World Premiere] Glanert
Secret Room: Chamber Sonata No.3 Wuorinen
Rebecca Hirsch (violin)
Peter Serkin (piano)
London Sinfonietta Goehr Premiere 22 May
Thursday, May 22, 2003 Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse
This concert might almost have been titled second time around, as it gratifyingly provided a further opportunity to hear three recent Sinfonietta premieres together with a substantial new work by Alexander Goehr. Goehr it was who opened the concert with ... around Stravinsky written in 2002, in which Stravinskys mid-1930s arrangement for woodwind quartet of his Pastorale is framed by Goehrs lively A Prelude and Introduzione for solo violin and rounded off by a capricious Rondo for all five instruments Three pieces around Stravinskys Pastorale. The stylistic contrast was itself the focus of the musical commentary, with Rebecca Hirschs plangently expressive playing well to the fore.
Marching to Carcassonne (2002) is more ambitious in scope at 30 minutes, and more problematic in outcome. The perky opening March returns twice in the course of eight pithy and contrasted movements, their diverting cumulative effect not dissimilar to that of Stravinskys suite from The Soldiers Tale. The finale marching to Carcassonne, Labyrinth draws elements from the preceding movements, interspersed by reappearances of the March, into a more extended, if often fragmented discourse. Yet the hitherto pungent delineation of character seemed lost amid a welter of conflicting impulses, whose resolution felt more arrived at than achieved. Thought provoking, even so, and a work which may well have seasoned when it (hopefully) reappears hopefully once more with the poised intensity of Peter Serkin in the demanding piano part.
Such prolixity was in striking contrast to Detlev Glanert¹s Secret Room (2002) the third in a series of chamber sonatas, in which the composer consciously restricts his stylistically wide-ranging palette for an abstract synthesis of ideas. The implied layering of ideas gives an invigorating sense of arrival to the musical activity, enhanced by Glanerts virtuoso deployment of his ensemble.
Finally, Charles Wuorinen and Cyclops (2000) typical in its intellectual rigour and dynamic approach to form. In essence, this concerto for 20 players passes through interrelated harmonic and rhythmic cycles on its way to a fusion both compressed and climactic. The degree to which the progressively shorter but increasingly complex episodes compact in intensity makes for gripping listening, Wuorinen controlling momentum with a Varèse-like energy. Too much occurring in too long a timespan? Possibly, but the purposefulness of the material largely ensures coherence especially when that material is tailor-made for the virtuosity of the Knussen-led Sinfonietta.