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Significantly perhaps, the earliest, Reich's Six Pianos (1973), was also the freshest, in that every performance is renewed through the inbuilt element of spontaneous timing of the phasings of its melodic fragments assigned to each piano. Six Pianos launched Piano Circus's career at the 1989 Edinburgh Festival, and in this concert the effect was both beautifully mesmeric and strikingly luminescent and rhythmic, with each pianist enmeshed with the repetitive patterns that gradually, almost imperceptibly, transform themselves. With so much post modernism around, it was inspiring to hear some echt-minimalism built around Reich's glowing harmonic cluster. The purity of the style was also evident in Terry Riley's Keyboard Study No 2, a work from the heyday of early English minimalism, 1966, in a new arrangement by Richard Harris in which the phasing of relentlessly repeated micro motifs is shared equally amongst the sextet.

The programme was launched with one of the most striking and challenging works, Patrick Nunn's 21st Century Junkie, in which an electronic tape with sampled sounds of contemporary life -- a struck match, internet dial-up and heavy breathing -- provides a backdrop for the propulsive chordal textures built up within the ensemble. The sheer richness of sonority and impetus was compelling, the harmonic idiom straddling the borders of raw Michael Nyman and progressive jazz. Also jazz-influenced was Totti, a powerful perpetuum mobile by Graham Fitkin, deftly scored to shift the ostinato layers around the group and rotating solos. Fitkin's works have a compelling impetus and vitality, as well as an attractive imaginative surface; he deserves to be more widely performed.

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Copyright © 4 May 2007 Malcolm Miller, London UK


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