"Yesterday I listened... today I loved!"
Posted on: 13th May 2012
It’s been an epic few days across the Festival recently, ranging from intimate recitals to transcendental meditative states in Canterbury Cathedral.
Day seven on Thursday saw a lunchtime recital In Praise of Dreams with soprano Rhona McKail and pianist Yshani Perinpanayagam in their lunchtime recital, before the focus shifted out to the Turner Contemporary gallery at Margate for the world premiere of Les Malèdictions d’une Furie, a monodrama by John Croft performed by Loré Lixenberg. Prior to the performance, both Croft and Lixenberg appeared in conversation with Festival Director, Paul Edlin.
Friday’s lunchtime concert was a sonic exploration in the youthful company of the New Perspectives ensemble, in the chamber-ensemble-meets-electronics world of Jonathan Harvey’s Bhakti; young performers from the Royal College of Music, conducted by Timothy Lines, bathed the audience in the rich colours of Harvey’s unique and visionary soundworld. St Gregory’s was full to bursting for the concert, to the extent that festival assistants were having to put out extra chairs as audience members continued to arrive right up until the concert began.
The visionary nature of the day continued into the evening, as Canterbury Cathedral echoed to the sounds of John Tavener’s The Veil of the Temple, an large-scale meditative work for which the composer himself, in frail health, made the pilgrimage to Canterbury. Nigel Short led Tenebrae and members of the English Chamber Orchestra in Tavener’s epic, all-embracing pan-religious odyssey, which after its two-and-three-quarter-hour performance was greeted with rapturous applause. (The composer himself can be seen seated in the front row on the left in the photo below).
Yesterday’s events continued the journey into the stars, with Darrah Morgan Exploding Stars in works for violin and electronics, including the premiere of Jonty Harrisons’ Some of its Parts. Earlier in the morning, composer Frank Lyons ranged freely over an eclectic range of musical styles in a composition workshop. Top-brass came to the Festival in the evening, as the Grimethorpe Colliery Band (wryly observing on Twittter earlier in the day that they were en route to a ‘local gig’) came to the Cathedral with a programme including John McCabe’s Cloudcatcher Fells and an arrangements for brass of Holst’s The Planets, which, in its original incarnation as Paul Edlin observed, remains one of the previous century’s most influential works.
Against the backdrop of all this, the New Music in Britain conference unfolded in a series of papers and talks exploring aspects of the British contemporary musical landscape and papers focusing on key composers including Birtwistle and Maxwell Davies.
And it doesn’t stop there. There are still three days yet to come, with today’s celebration of Worldwide Mother’s Day in a feast of family events at the Gulbenkian, and a visit from legendary British jazz pianist Julian Joseph tonight.
Images: Peter Cook
Posted by Daniel Harding.
Posted on: 7th Apr 2012
There’s a very moving Guardian interview with Jonathan Harvey, whose music was the subject of a ‘Total Immersion’ celebration at the Barbican back in January, in which the composer reflects on his opera, Wagner Dream, written in 2007. He talks about the twin poles of his musical and spiritual selves: Wagner and the philosophy of Buddhism.
"I love Wagner's music. …When I was a teenager, that was what obsessed me, to discover how Wagner created these other places, these visions, in his music, to find where that power came from."
The concept of other places and visions is a thread that has run through Harvey’s compositional life, from his early days with Messiaen, his work at IRCAM, and to the most recent works which seem to look beyond this life to the promise of a transcendent afterlife.
Following an invitation from Boulez to work at IRCAM, Harvey has worked with electronics and live sound; his experiments with electro-acoustic music at IRCAM led to Mortuos plango, vivos voco, in which the sampled sounds of a boy treble (Harvey’s own son) and the tenor bell at Winchester Cathedral are subjected to a series of electronic transformations, such that the treble whizzes around and eventually becomes a part of the bell-sound; the entire pitch-set of the piece being derived from the thirty-three partials in the bell spectrum (Harvey writes about the piece here):
and a swathe of works in which electronic manipulation of live sounds becomes an additional sonic tapestry to the music (he is often cited by Spectralist composers, for whom sound is the pre-eminent aspect of composition, as a composer whose work hovers on the brink of spectral music). Harvey’s ravishing orchestra-meets-electronics soundworld is apparent in pieces such as the Madonna of Winter and Spring.
Harvey’s profound interest in Buddhism and eastern thought has inspired pieces such as Tranquil Abiding, which is especially beautiful, with the strings articulating a falling, two-chord gesture at the beginning that seems as though the ensemble is breathing (rather like the opening of Britten's Nocturne) in a meditative fashion:
Written in 2007 and first performed in Berlin in 2008, and given its UK première in Huddersfield only last year, Harvey’s Messages turns the entire chorus into angels; from the very opening gesture, in which a dulcimer appears to draw aside a veil into another world, the piece is a mesmerising voyage through a litany of angels’ names for chorus and orchestra.
Speakings, also melding orchestra with live eletronics, was written whilst Harvey was composer-in-association with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and depicts the evolution of speech through the sound of orchestral timbres, as though the ensemble itself is learning to communicate:
Harvey’s Nataraja for flute and piano appears as part of a concert at Sounds New on Monday 7th May.
Bhakti, an exploration of hymns of the Rig Veda for ensemble and tape, also comes to Sounds New on Friday 11 May. Immerse yourself in Harvey's evocative visions of other places next month.
Posted by Daniel Harding.