Robert and Catherine
At the Still Point of the Turning World
Carla Rees (alto flute/flute/bass flute)
Paul Goodey (oboe/cor anglais)
Sarah Watts (clarinet/bass clarinet)
Michael Oliva (electronics)
Reviewed by: Josh Meggitt
Reviewed: 22 April, 2006
Venue: St Leonards Church, Shoreditch, London
The peeling paint, shadows and decaying gloom of St. Leonard’s Church provided the ideal backdrop for Rarescale’s programme of moody chamber works – with additional help from the evening birdsong, traffic and police sirens wafting in from the streets of Shoreditch.
The majority of the pieces shared a similar aesthetic: meditative, unhurried shifting planes of sound with hints of menace. David Bennett Thomas’s five-movement Short Suite (2006) had the economy of Webern without that composer’s jaggedness. Instead, mournful flute lines and well-placed short bursts from bass clarinet and English horn created a mood of uneasy stasis. Marc Yeats’s Hocus Pocus (2004), Jonathon Kolm’s Mere Mirrors (2004) and Michael Oliva’s Night Crossing (2005) tread similarly meditative paths, Night Crossing involving spare and engaging electronics from the composer/performer. His piece Moss Garden (2006), for flute and electronics was shamelessly beautiful ambient music apparently influenced by Japanese gardens and Brian Eno: uncomplicated, undemanding but thoroughly enjoyable.
Warren Burt’s Robert and Catherine (1985) was composed using a complicated investigation of the letters ‘R’ and ‘K’ with spectral sound analysis; in sound terms, slow rolls of thunder emerged from the computer, built upon by flute and then bass clarinet, the electronic waves becoming more consciously digital and low bass clarinet squeaks echoing these artificial sounds. Edwin Roxburgh’s At the Still Point of the Turning World (1979) for solo oboe treated with ring-modulation ran Paul Goodey’s playing through various delay units, broadcast through loudspeakers situated in each corner of the room. Digital glitches and clicks echoed from the far speakers as live oboe patterns grew in intensity from the stage, (only to reappear in decayed format seconds later), incorporating breaths, overtones and the rattle of fingers on keys. This piece, brilliantly performed by Goodey, remained engaging for most of its 15 minutes, although the digital crackle grew unnerving and seemed unnecessary.
Salvatore Sciarrino’s Muro D’Orizzonte (1996) was the most discomforting piece on the bill – filled with short bursts, over blowing and staccato attacks, it sent breath and spittle everywhere. Spasm (1993) by Michael Lowenstern was not completely successful in its aim of marrying “the compositional practices of classical music with the …emotional immediacy of popular music” yet the busy digital breakbeat combined suitably enough with the wheeze and honks of Sarah Watts’s bass clarinet. Howard Skempton’s Requiescat (1994) braved the terrors of audience participation via humming, but Goodey’s oboe sounded lovely dancing between these lacklustre human whines.
Throughout, Rarescale’s musicianship was never less than riveting: a thoroughly enjoyable evening of music.