Philharmonia Orchestra Music of Today – 5 December

Bouliane
Contredanse du Silène Badouny
Des caresses …
Du fouet et du plaisir

Nicolas Hodges (piano)
Members of the Philharmonia Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins


Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 5 December, 2002
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London

Chatting amiably with Julian Anderson (Music of Today’s Artistic Director) at the start of this early-evening recital, Canadian Denys Bouliane (born 1955) spoke of his fascination with musical material intent on subverting the very expectations that it set up. Certainly a sense of things being not what they seemed was much in evidence during the three works that effectively introduced his music to London concert-goers.

Contredanse du Silène Badouny (1998 – spot the anagram!) is a capricious take on the idealised (!) French conception of the English ’country-dance’. Scintillating keyboard writing, amply brought out by Nicolas Hodges, gave the music a playful feel in spite of its complexity – almost as if Gershwin were rethinking Boulez’s Second Sonata. Perhaps this was the intention?

Des caresses … (1994) is very different: a passacaglia on not so much a theme as a harmonic progression that fails to resolve. The music is sensuous, and ravishingly scored, though the process does seem to lose focus when it turns back on itself just past mid-point. It made an admirable foil, even so, to Du fouet et du plaisir (1997) – a chamber concerto whose initial stark juxtaposition sets up an engrossing interplay of character and motion, out of which a new synthesis securely clinches proceedings. Dialectics made fun, or at least entertaining.

Performances of the latter two pieces were given with no little enjoyment by Philharmonia musicians under the ever-capable Martyn Brabbins. Mention should be made of two Bouliane CDs – “La Musique du Realisme Magique” [SNE-543-CD and SNE-544-CD] – featuring a range of ensemble works and worth importing via a specialist dealer from Canada. Meanwhile, the opportunity to renew acquaintance live with Bouliane’s very diverting music will hopefully not be too long in coming.

  • Next MOT, featuring Simon Holt, on 6 February 2003, 6.00 in RFH – no ticket required, just turn up
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