Philharmonia Orchestra Music of Today

Non mi comporto male
The Persistence of Memory*

Jane Manning (soprano)

Stephen Gutman (piano)

Members of the Philharmonia Orchestra
Martyn Brabbins*

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 10 November, 2002
Venue: Royal Festival Hall, London

Among the most significant of the younger generation of British composers, Richard Causton has been under-represented in London concert venues of late, so it was good to see him featured in the current season of Music of Today early-evening slots.

All three works date from the mid-1990s, and search out diverse possibilities within a unified overall strategy. Threnody sets a two-stanza poem by Marina Tsvetayeva as an unbroken melodic line, its harmonic potential teased out by piano and two distant and antiphonal clarinets, and expressively sung by Jane Manning. Stephen Gutman brought comparable artistry to Non mi comporto male. These five, contrasted miniatures are variations on a standard made famous by Fats Waller (“Ain’t misbehavin’”), with the journey rather more intriguing than the actual destination.

Performed by the London Sinfonietta in 1995 and ’97, The Persistence of Memory was the work which brought Causton to wider attention. The inspiration, of factory workers in India sounding out the passing hours at night by banging on slates and metal objects, is only indirectly in evidence – with discontinuities of rhythm and pulse skilfully absorbed into a 16-minute whole, and given an ’out of focus’ quality through the subtle and fastidious harmonies that Causton draws from his ensemble. The present performance, by members of the Philharmonia and Martyn Brabbins, was attentive to the music’s deceptively somnolent soundworld.

With a catalogue including the hard-hitting Millennium Scenes, which divided opinion on its premiere in 1999, and the recent Concerto for Solo Percussion and Gamelan, Causton is nothing if not distinctive in his approach to composition. Hopefully the present showcase will increase his profile among the concert-going public at large.

  • Richard Causton Link
  • The next MOT is on Sunday 5 December at 6 o’clock, RFH, music by Denys Bouliane

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