London Contemporary Orchestra at Old Vic Tunnels

Forum [World premiere]
The Viola In My Life II
Transmission for trumpet [World premiere]
Three Pieces
Five Scherzi [World premiere]
Rebonds B
Simulacrum [World premiere of revised version]

London Contemporary Orchestra Soloists [Hannah Grayson (flute), Harry Cameron-Penny (clarinet), Huw Morgan (trumpet), Antoine Françoise (piano & celesta), Sarah Cresswell (percussion), Daniel Pioro (violin), Robert Ames (viola) and Oliver Coates (cello)]
Hugh Brunt (conductor)
Sebastian Durkin (sound design)

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 13 May, 2011
Venue: Old Vic Tunnels, London

Old Vic TunnelsThe London Contemporary Orchestra has recently been demonstrating a willingness to go where other such ensembles fear to tread – witness this event at the Old Vic Tunnels beneath Waterloo Station and an environ ideal for performances of an overly experimental nature, for which this programme admirably fitted the bill.

After the collaborative Forum had set the scene with its hieratic and likely Cage-informed coming-together in a state of meaningful randomness, Hugh Brunt directed a purposeful account of Morton Feldman’s The Viola In My Life II – heard to advantage in a setting which readily emphasised its sensual remoteness, and in which Robert Ames emerged as an eloquent first among equals. Huw Morgan projected the angular gestures of Colin Alexander’s Transmission – redolent of a Miles Davis solo from the early 1970s and none the worse for that – with notable agility, while Oliver Coates did what he could to make the laconic asides of Laurence Crane’s Three Pieces audible in the cavernous acoustic – as did Daniel Pioro the intricacies of John Woolrich’s Five Scherzi. Sarah Cresswell fared better with the energetic gestures of Iannis Xenakis’s Rebonds B, another piece that sounded wholly ‘in situ’, then Robert Ames brought unexpected clarity to the frenzied passagework and vaunting glissandos of Jonathan Cole’s Simulacrum. More or less the whole ensemble then came together again for Catch – one of the most characterful of Thomas Adès’s earlier works, in which Harry Cameron-Penny acted as conduit for the unpredictable give-and-take as marks out its animated and often irascible discourse.

Although the placing of each piece in a different space within the tunnels-complex ensures a constant variety of listening perspectives, it could hardly be pretended that each of the seven pieces fared equally well, or that the not-always-attentive audience worked against some of the music and musicians involved. Perhaps this should be seen as secondary to the innovativeness of mounting such a programme at such a venue and thus attracting a new clientele in the process. Hopefully the LCO will be able to balance innovation with inherently musical considerations in its future schedule. Its next incarnation, however, is as Donovan’s backing band!

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