Luigi Nono: A Portrait – 7 July

La Fabbrica Illuminata
Post-Prae-Ludium No.1 per Donau
Djamila Boupacha
’Hay que caminare’, sognando

Sarah Leonard (soprano)
Melvyn Poore (tuba)
David La Page & Patrick Savage (violins)

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 7 July, 2002
Venue: Almeida at King’s Cross, Omega Place, London

A rare – at least in the UK – and welcome opportunity to hear the music of Luigi Nono (1924-90) in a live context. The selection for such a concert is not easy, especially given the importance of electronics in his music, but the present sequence gave us representative works from the 1960s and ’80s – opening with the explosive ’industrial scena’ for soprano and tape, La Fabbrica Illuminata (1964). The amalgamation of environmental and pure electronic sound provides a visceral backdrop for the setting of verse by Cesare Pavese. Sarah Leonard was commandingly secure, as she was in Djamila Boupacha – a sensuous solo line elaborated from the second movement of Canti da vita e d’amore (1962).

Nono’s work of the 1980s constitutes one of the most individual explorations of sound and meaning from the last century. Post-Prae-Ludium per Donau (1987) is a compact example of how controlled improvisation can yield lucid and expressive results when fused with a pervasive but unobtrusive live electronic component. Melvyn Poore’s subterranean tuba drew forth a vast range of timbral inflections that made listening as intriguing as it was pleasurable.

The concert ended with Nono’s last completed work. ’Hay que caminare’, sognando (1989) condenses the sonic discoveries of his final years down to the medium of two violins. As in a process of call and response, the players traverse the stage according to the (freely determined) layout of the music stands – the score as intricately detailed in the micro dimension as it is flexible in the macro. The fugitive, often disembodied sounds that result define their own continuity in accordance with the maxim that Nono adopted around this time: Traveller, there are no ways, but you must go.

David La Page and Patrick Savage were a shade indecisive in their projection, but their concern to project the nuances and sheer allure of the music was never in doubt. If it was not quite maintained, a state of dreaming was certainly evoked during the 25 minutes that it takes for this magical piece to wend its way through the listener’s consciousness.

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