Exploring the late works of Feldman and Nono and composers influenced by these masters

Includes world premiere of a new choral work by Linda Catlin Smith for EXAUDI – setting fragments from Virginia Woolf's The Years

16-18 February 2018

'Music of shimmering spaces, disturbed silences, sharp-edged fragments and dream-like unpredictability... It's music in which you participate almost as much as the performers, acting out your own dream-journey of moving through a landscape that's at once still and violent. 'Tom Service on the music of Luigi Nono

Following a critically acclaimed celebration of the music of Morton Feldman in 2016, the Principal Sound Festival returns to St John’s Smith Square in February 2018 for three days of concerts that juxtapose the late works of Feldman and Luigi Nono. Bringing together some of contemporary music's most respected ensembles, including EXAUDI and the Bozzini Quartet, with the UK's most exciting young talent – including Explore Ensemble and St John's Young Artists George Barton and Siwan Rhys – the festival offers the opportunity to be immersed in the contemplative works of these two giants of post-war music, both of whom opened up new worlds of sonic exploration, focusing in on the minutiae of individual voices, textures and sounds.

The festival opens with a showcase of performers from across the three days. Explore Ensemble perform Nono’s A Pierre….whilst Siwan Rhys prefaces a performance of ...sofferte onde serene... for piano and tape with a set of enigmatic miniatures by Nono’s musical hero Arnold Schoenberg. After the interval, Feldman's Three Voices – which Juliet Fraser recently recorded to critical acclaim – sees the soloist accompanied by two pre-recorded versions of herself to create the haunting, mesmeric textures. The music of Schubert occupied a very special place in the musical imagination of Morton Feldman, and on Saturday Mark Knoop pairs Feldman's last work for solo piano with a late Schubert impromptu. He is then joined by Aisha Orazbayeva to perform music by Bryn Harrison, whose subtly shifting textures, extend Feldman's language into the new territories.

After their astounding performance of Feldman's For Philip Guston at the first Principal Sound Festival, Jenni Hogan, George Barton and Siwan Rhys return to perform his mesmerising Why Patterns?. Nono's last completed work, the fragmentary violin duet “Hay que caminar” soñando, is performed by members of the Bozzini Quartet, whilst an effervescent trio by Earle Brown (commissioned by Nono for the Darmstadt Festival) is balanced by crystalline keyboard works from Webern and Jürg Frey.

Making a rare London appearance, the Montreal-based Bozzini Quartet perform one of Nono's great late masterpieces alongside a quartet by Claudia Molitor inspired by lines from Rilke. The programme is completed by a set of enigmatic canons by Nono's compatriot and near-contemporary Aldo Clementi, and the clear, airy harmonies of John Lely's Doubles.

To conclude the festival, a new choral work by Linda Catlin Smith– setting fragments from Virginia Woolf's The Years – crowns an intricate programme featuring both Explore Ensemble and EXAUDI which sets luscious Machaut chansons alongside music by John Cage and Rebecca Saunders. Elsewhere, the fractured soundworld of late Nono finds resonances in a pair of dusky chamber works by John Croft, Wolfgang Rihm's imposing Quo me Rapis, and fragile miniatures by Feldman and György Kurtág.

 

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