Rarescale: Sounds Of Our Generation

When I woke up, the dinosaur was still there [London premiere]
Tracing Lines [World premiere]
Five Pieces for Cello and Guitar
Primera Cronica del Descubrimiento
Dreamscape [World premiere]
Three Night Pieces
Hika (In Memoriam Toru Takemitsu)
Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano [UK premiere]

Carla Rees (flutes), Rosie Banks (cello), David Black (guitar) & Kerry Yong (piano)

Reviewed by: Josh Meggitt

Reviewed: 1 July, 2006
Venue: St Leonard's Church, Shoreditch, London

Rarescale’s chamber music series is fast developing a reputation for staging concerts of strong, moody works by new and promising composers. This summer concert was filled with powerful, and enjoyable, work, but it’s a shame that contemporary chamber music is unable to draw larger audiences.

The concert featured music in duos and trios, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the spectre of Takemitsu hung heavily over many of the pieces, the late master paid direct homage with the evocative japonisme of Leo Brouwer’s Hika. Also strongly in the plaintive manner was Carlo Domeniconi’s Five Pieces for Cello and Guitar (1988), an evenly balanced dialogue between the two instruments, combining rich mournful sweeps of the cello with pointillistic guitar scatter. The final movement paired harsh cello scrapes with beautifully harmonic runs on the guitar, but even at its most dissonant things remained calm. Roberto Sierra’s Primera Cronica del Descubrimiento (1988) for flute and guitar set out to depict the clash of cultures between aboriginal Indians of the Caribbean and the Spanish Conquistadors, and it was certainly the most narrative-driven work of the evening, successfully conveying the overwhelming confusion, and later hostility, experienced by both parties.

Kevin Gourlay’s Dreamscape (2004), for quarter-tone flute and guitar (in altered tunings) attempted to map the transient thoughts and impressions of a dreamer’s mind through micro-tonal meanderings on flute, which proved easier to overlook than the discordant scales of the altered guitar which – strummed, tapped, scraped and pinged – produced wonderfully ‘wrong’-sounding passages, evoking the anti-jazz of Derek Bailey and Marc Ribot. Tracing Lines (2006) by Robert Fokkens retained the heady atmosphere of the evening, but added moments of indecision and skewed repetition, with two-note flute bleets competing with thick swathes of cello. It ended with both instruments imitating the lonely cries of a foghorn.

Saariaho’s Cendres for alto flute, cello and piano was the highest profile piece in the programme, and performers Rees, Banks and Yong amply did it justice. Based upon ideas initially explored in Saariaho’s Double Concerto, Cendres sees her diligently exploring the particular timbres of each voice. Using plucked strings and sustained, fluid piano passages, breaths and blasts on flute and dirty muddled sounds on the cello, Cendres moved in and out of focus, the players expertly reacting as they were compelled to move in and out of sync with one another.

The opening piece, Fling, from 2002, by Nicholas Sackman shared similar concerns in investigating the shared colours and shadings available from the unlikely trio of flute (and alto-flute and piccolo), cello and piano. If not quite as accomplished as Cendres, Fling did require some of the most vigorous playing of the evening (and also some of the most spare) and, with almost painfully high notes played on the piccolo, some of the most adventurous writing.

Performances throughout were committed and a joy to watch, but, as mentioned earlier, deserving of far greater audience numbers.

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