CAUGHT (Mind-Machine 1)
Loopy Valse
Cantus 1
After the Eulogy

Adam Summerhayes (violin)
Catherine Summerhayes & Alan Brown (piano)

Reviewed by: Richard Whitehouse

Reviewed: 27 November, 2002
Venue: Purcell Room, London

The UK and Eire Composition Platform is the imposing title for this annual competition featuring ’new’ music for violin and piano. 2002 saw a range of pieces rich in stylistic diversity.

Cantus 1 was 24-year-old John Hails’s entry – a serene, slow moving melodic line for violin with pensive piano accompaniment. Pleasant if unremarkable, whereas Tara Guram’s Loopy Valse promised more but delivered less. Inspired by the composer’s Golden Retriever, the prevailing waltz meter proved less flexible than was presumably intended, with contrasts in mood limited by the rather monochrome piano writing.

CAUGHT is the first of Keith Gifford’s Mind-Machine pieces – in which basic material is developed and filtered out across a related sequence of works. Silence plays a major role over the 13-minute span, though integrated into the underlying harmonic-rhythmic motion with a purpose and sensitivity which suggests lessons from Feldman and Nono well learnt. Quite a contrast with the incisive, neo-classical cut of Francis Routh’s Diversions – though, a slightly over-extended ’Finale’ apart, this was an engaging suite in which ’innovation’ was never an issue.

Alec Roth’s Nocturne – inspired by the landscape paintings of Akseli Gallen-Kallela – showed an appreciation for blending the contrasting timbres of the instruments in what was otherwise too redolent of ’mood music’. Geoffrey Wright’s Sonatina, classical in line and gesture, might have built on its opening movement more characterfully, but the poise and clarity of the part-writing is something to savour.

Which left Tom Ingoldsby’s After the Eulogy, an involving and sustained discourse in which vestiges of a four-movement layout were subsumed into the broad cumulative flow. As in his impressive piano concerto, heard at Maida Vale last year, Ingoldsby’s is an idiom in which style is never allowed to override substance – making his music as involving to listen to as it must be gratifying to play.

In what was a novel awards process, the Jury Prize was divided between Wright and Ingoldsby, the Critics’ Prize between Roth and Ingoldsby, and the Audience Award given to Guram – a repeat performance of her piece was much to the approval of her vociferous supporters.

All credit to Adam and Catherine Summerhayes – and, in the Gifford, Routh and Ingoldsby pieces, Alan Brown – for guiding us through an extensive and often demanding programme. In particular, the pieces by Gifford, Routh, Wright and Ingoldsby merit investigation by all duo partnerships looking for new and rewarding repertoire.

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