Passeggiata in tram in America e ritorno
M is for Man, Music, Mozart
Vinex Productions: Beat; Den Pijp; Loops
Cristina Zavalloni (vocals)
Monica Germino (violin)
Tatiana Koleva (percussion)
Orkest de Volharding
Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse
Reviewed: 12 October, 2002
Venue: Queen Elizabeth Hall, London
The visual element in Louis Andriessen’s music was much in evidence tonight – and, in the opening trio of recent shorts from Vinex Productions, the influence that this has had on a later generation. With animation from Sjeng Schupp and ’pop music’ from Michiel van Dijk, we were treated to images of inane repetition (Loops), the existential musings of a pipe (Den Pijp) and a surreal sequence of actions sensual and sexual (Beat). Punchy and acerbic scores enhanced the entertainment factor.
The Andriessen contribution divided into two ’features’, bookended by ’shorts’. Of the latter, Passeggiata in tram in America e ritorno (1999) comprises an overture and song to words by expressionist poet Dino Compana, and reunited Cristina Zavalloni and Monica Germino (heard in the world premiere of La Passione last weekend) in a setting of brooding sensuality. Y después (1983), utilising words by Lorca in a tenth anniversary remembrance of the overthrow of the Allende regime in Chile, potently reinvents Berlin-period Weill from a Latin-American perspective.
The two longer Andriessen works are among his most characteristic. Described as a “symphonic movement for any group of loud sounding instruments”, Workers Union (1975) is the archetypal Orkest de Volharding statement. Rhythmically precise yet approximate in pitch, this visceral slab of music defines the term ’Urban Minimalism’ to perfection. And Volharding gave it their all, goaded by the enthusiastic percussion underpinning of Tatiana Koleva and the image manipulations of Eboman. If it sounds at all like a period piece, it is one that had dated pretty magnificently.
Would that the same could be said of M is for Man, Music, Mozart – Andriessen’s first collaboration with Peter Greenaway, and one of six BBC films commissioned to mark Mozart’s bicentenary in 1991. The irreverence of the production still has its attractions, but the film itself seems intent on packing any number of Greenaway clichés – naked anatomies, sexual and culinary orgies, on-screen captions et al – into a half-hour slot. Those unfamiliar with his films might have found it arresting, even provocative; the rest would have recognised the stylised cul-de-sac into which the director had driven himself by the beginning of that decade.
Musically, things are much more rewarding. The sequence of four songs, interspersed with three instrumentals, neatly encapsulates the linear progression ’Man-Movement-Music-Mozart’, as well as the classical and populist components of Andriessen’s musical thinking. The vocal numbers, including the catchy ’Alphabet Song’ and the poignant ’Einstein Song’, work well in their own right; while the second and third instrumentals, with their seeming allusions to Symphonies of wind instruments and the Ebony Concerto, invoke the spirit of Stravinsky from the inside. Creative ’perseverance’ of a high order indeed!