New British Voices – 20 Feb

In Nomine after William Byrd (1999)
white river sand (2002)
A Game for Gentlemen Played by Thugs (1999) *
En Este Sitio… (2002)
#[200203] (2002) *
Lovesongs (2003) *
The Void in This Colour (2001)

* First performance

London Sinfonietta
Pierre-André Valade

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 20 February, 2003
Venue: BBC Studio One, Maida Vale, London

A showcase of “New British Voices” from the London Sinfonietta – well contrasted in an absorbing hour-long programme to be broadcast on the 22nd.

One of a collection of recent glosses on the ’In Nomine’, Bryn Harrison dissolved the formal process into a blurred remembrance of Elizabethan harmonies, making for a discreet but fetching entree. Inspired by the ’white river sand’ employed in the making of Japanese landscape gardens, Ian Vine came up with music of translucent timbres pulsing with a Boulezian expectancy, leading to coarser textures and greater rhythmic definition towards the close. After Donnacha Dennehy’s left-field trio sonata for oboe, muted trumpet and harpsichord had provided a very likeable interlude, William Attwood offered a brusque evocation of the Obelisco in Buenos Aires – its rapid contrasts in mood and material seemingly held together by glockenspiel chimes and phrases.

One of a number of works deriving from his #[unassigned] composition module, James Saunders dispensed with conductor and notated score as the Sinfonietta players intuited their way through a hushed sequence of sounds bordering on acoustic ambience. Not so John Hails, in the first three movements – ’Kurwenal siehst du es nicht?’, ’Total Bitch’ and ’Consumpta est’ – of his homage to lovers past and present: the dense harmonies cut through with incisive rhythmic gestures created a palpably charged atmosphere, though intonation was sorely stretched by the music’s not-quite-focused requirements. The point was confirmed by Tansy Davies’s ’flat earth’ depiction, in which fast and jagged music is gradually infiltrated by soft and smooth sounds – resulting in an aural landscape which, while breaking no new boundaries, was beautifully realised within its own orbit.

The Sinfonietta exhibited its usual commitment and attention to detail, Pierre-André Valade bringing out the character of the four conducted pieces with evident enthusiasm.

  • Concert to be broadcast on BBC Radio 3 – 11.30pm on Saturday 22 Feb as part of Hear and Now
  • London Sinfonietta

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