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Muscular performance

REX HARLEY is left breathless
listening to violinist Chloë Hanslip


On the hills overlooking Prague is a large sculpture representing a metronome. It's a landmark with a symbolic resonance. Watching Libor Pesek conducting the Czech National Symphony Orchestra in Cardiff's St David's Hall on Thursday 13 May 2004, I was reminded of this piece of contemporary art, but the similarity was more visual than symbolic.

There's no obvious passion, nothing even of conventional pleasure. The arms go up, the arms come down -- and the music comes out. To start with, it was John Adams' Harmonielehre, a strange agglomeration of several other composers' styles: a sliver of Philip Glass, a smidgen of Steve Reich, a dash of Debussy, and a middle bit owing much to Hollywood film composers: my colleague plumped for John Williams, whereas I would have nominated Bernard Hermann, in particular his score for Hitchcock's Vertigo. The piece ends with a conventional climax and a resounding thump. Indeed, the whole thing sounded rather dry and academic, but was that all down to John Adams, or did part of the credit go to the metronome? The orchestra played well. Each section was totally integrated, the sounds were pure and precise. But I was left essentially unengaged with what was happening on the stage.

Enter Chloë Hanslip to remedy matters.

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Copyright © 25 May 2004 Rex Harley, Cardiff UK


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