Secret Music: July

(Click for the background to the Secret Music listings.)

Friday 4 July: Silk Street Music Hall, GSMD | Plus Minus | 7.00pm | FREE

Plus-Minus ensemble present five new works by postgraduate Guildhall composers, and a rare opportunity to hear Peter Ablinger’s experimental Amtssee bei Regen.

Friday 4 July: St Mary at Hill | 7.30pm | £8 advance/£10 on the door

The 10th season of Music We’d Like to Hear gets underway, with new support from Sound and Music (as co-producers) and as always a lush programme of three concerts on three Fridays curated by three composers. First up is Tim Parkinson’s concert, Drums and Piano: pieces by Matteo Fargion, Jonathan Marmor (whose Cattle in the Woods was a memorable feature of last year’s programme), Makiko Nishikaze, Chiyoko Szlavnics, Kunsu Shim and Christian Wolff, played by Adam Morris (percussion) and Parkinson (piano).

Friday 4 July: Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham | Smith Quartet and Joby Burgess | 7.30pm | £18

Music for string quartet (with or without percussion) at the Cheltenham Music Festival: Steve Reich, Different Trains; new piece by Graham Fitkin; Steve Martland, Starry Night.

Saturday 5 July: York Unitarian Chapel | Steve Martland tribute | 7.30pm | £10/£8 concs

More Martland: York’s Late Music Ensemble (specially formed for the occasion) will perform a tribute concert to the late composer, who died last May featuring performances of his ReveilleRemembering Lennon and Kick, as well as pieces by Louis Andriessen, Jeremy Dale Roberts, Roger Marsh and James Whittle.

Sunday 6 July: Parabola Arts Centre, Cheltenham | Tokaido Road | 4.30pm | £20

Cheltenham again, for the premiere of Nicola LeFanu’s new multi-media chamber opera Tokaido Road, set in 19th-century Japan and following the story of the artist Hiroshige. Created and commissioned by Okeanos, with a libretto by Nancy Gaffield.

Friday 11 July: St Mary at Hill | 7.30pm | £8 advance/£10 on the door

Second instalment of Music We’d Like to Hear, curated by Markus Trunk. Pieces for string quartet by Joanna Bailie, Carola Bauckholt, Matteo Fargion, Jo Kondo and Luiz Henrique Yudo (another highlight from last year). All played by the Ligeti Quartet.

Sunday 13 July: Cafe Oto | Laurence Crane CD launch | 8pm | £8 advance/£10 on the door

Apartment House give the UK premiere of Harley Gaber’s legendary The Winds Rise in the North (1973–4) for amplified string quintet, described by Keith Fullerton Whitman as ‘one of the holy grails of early minimalism’.

Tuesday 15 July: Cafe Oto | Laurence Crane CD launch | 8pm | £8 advance/£10 on the door

Launch concert for Apartment House’s long anticipated double CD of Laurence Crane’s chamber music (another timbre). Concert to include several pieces from the CD, performed by Apartment House.

Review of this (very special) CD to follow soon.

Friday 18 July: St Mary at Hill | 7.30pm | £8 advance/£10 on the door

Third instalment of Music We’d Like to Hear, curated by John Lely. Music for viols and objects by Antoine Beuger, William Lawes, Alvin Lucier, Taylan Susam and Christian Wolff. Played by Phantasm and the MWLTH ensemble.

Friday 25 July: Schotts recital room, 48 Great Marlborough Street | Dave Smith | 6.30pm | £10/£8 concs

A pre-65th birthday concert of works by Dave Smith performed by the composer. Programme to include Ogive 1African MosaicGuarachaFrivolous and Vexatious and 8 pieces from the 1st Piano Concert.

Secret Music: June

(Click for the background to the Secret Music listings.)

Bit London-based again this one: if you have a concert elsewhere in the UK that you think I should consider listing, please get in touch.

Tuesday 3 June: Cafe Oto | Kammer Klang | 8pm | £7

Neil Luck and Adam de la Cour will be performing their duo-version of Kurt Schwitters’ classic Ursonate. Expect two men, ACME duck calls and 6ft of plastic tubing. Zubin Kanga will be performing Z/K, written for him by Michael Finnissy, and there will also be Berio, Xenakis, James Saunders and some live black MIDI. Like the blurb says, schwittloads of notes.

Wednesday 4 June: The Forge, Camden | Fidelio Trio and Ensemble Matisse | 7.30pm | £12.50/£10

The Fidelio Trio and Ensemble Matisse come together in a concert of works by British and European composers. Full programme:

  • Harrison Birtwistle: Piano Trio
  • David Fennessy: Music for the Pauses in a Conversation between John Cage and Morton Feldman
  • Claudia Molitor: after the strangely monumental
  • Johannes Maria Staud: Für Bálint András Varga
  • Philippe Hersant: Nachtgesang
  • Karol Beffa: La tristesse du roi (new arrangement; WP)
  • Guillaume Connesson: Adams Variations
  • Pascal Dusapin: invece

Tuesday 10 June: The Forge, Camden | New Dots | 7.30pm | £12.50/£10 on the door (£11/£9 online)

New Dots give  a programme of new music for piano and percussion by up and coming composers. Full programme:

Performed by Siwan Rhys (piano) and George Barton (percussion)

Tuesday 10 June: Hundred Years Gallery | clapTON ensemble | 7.30pm | £5

East London’s clapTON ensemble play works by Rebecca Saunders, Pierluigi Billone, Tristan Perich, Luciano Azzigotti, Santiago Díez Fischer and Anna Romashkova at the Hundred Years Gallery in Hoxton.

Thursday 12 June: City University | Mark Knoop/Gwenaëlle Rouger | 7pm | FREE

Knoop and Rouger piano duo, with added electronics from Newton Armstrong. Full programme:

  • Georg Friedrich Haas – Ein Schattenspiel
  • Ben Smith – the ineluctable modality of the audible (Water Music) (WP)
  • Georges Aperghis – Dans le mur
  • Georgia Rodgers – cut it out (WP)
  • Michael Beil – Doppel

Free to attend, but please book a place.

Sunday 15 June [NB: Date corrected]: Whitechapel Gallery | Voice and the Lens | 12pm | £12.50/£10

This brilliant festival of the human voice returns after its first incarnation at IKON gallery in 2012. Highlights include: Bill Viola’s Anthem; Bruce McLean and Adam de la Cour’s Drumstick; Anri Sala’s Answer Me; Robert Ashley’s classic Atalanta Strategy; recent work by Imogen Stidworthy, Helen Petts, Laure Prouvost, Neil Luck and Lina Lapelyte; Mikhail Karikis and specially-made new work by AMAE and Pier Giorgio De Pinto with philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy.

Monday 16 June: Deptford Town Hall | Ian Pace | 7.30pm | FREE

Ian Pace performs Goldsmiths student compositions alongside British premieres of music by Walter Zimmerman, Rebecca Saunders and Alistair Zaldua, the European premiere of some very old Ferneyhough, and more. Full programme:

  • Brian Ferneyhough: Invention (1965) (European Premiere)
  • Brian Ferneyhough: Lemma-Icon-Epigram (1981)
  • Nigel McBride: Juncture 1 (2012)
  • Alistair Zaldua: Spagyrea (2013-14)
  • Rebecca Saunders: shadow (2013)
  • Lauren Redhead: i am but one small instrument (2012)
  • Robin Haigh: Can You Hear Him Singing? (2014)
  • Natasha Prendergast: The Atonal Verses (2013)
  • Walter Zimmermann: Voces Abandonadas (Antonio Porchia), primera serie (2005)
  • Adam de la Cour: Holy Toledo (2013–14)

Tuesday 17 June: Royal Academy of Music | Zubin Kanga | 6pm | FREE

Pianist Zubin Kanga plays works written for him in collaboration with the their composers by Elo Masing, Michael Finnissy, David Gorton, David Young, Patrick Nunn and George Benjamin. Full programme:

  • Elo Masing: Studies in Resonance II
  • Michael Finnissy: Z/K
  • David Gorton: Orfordness
  • David Young: Not Music Yet
  • Patrick Nunn: Morphosis
  • George Benjamin: Piano Figures

Wednesday 25 June: Harwich Festival | Ein Brise | 6.30pm | FREE

Kagel’s famous piece for 111 cyclists receives its first outing in Scotland an outing as part of the Harwich Festival of the Arts (25 June–6 July). Free to watch; it starts on Harwich Green.

Parkinson Saunders coming to Kings Place

I haven’t decided which side of ‘secret’ concerts at Kings Place sit on, so I don’t always include them in my Secret Music listings. I know, rod for my own …

However, if you’re in London on 11 May – rather than in Glasgow for Tectonics, Leeds for the Freiburg/Leeds percussion ensembles, or Oxford for Riot Ensemble’s Zivkovic premiere – then you probably do want to know about this:

Sunday 11 May: Kings Place, London | Parkinson Saunders | 4pm | £9.50

Tim Parkinson and James Saunders bring their irreverent experimentalism to Kings Place with a concert of new pieces by Tim Parkinson, Stefan Thut, Matteo Fargion, James Saunders, John White and Travis Just.

I’ve been told there will be shouting, Brazilian rhythms, box pushing, noise guitar, story telling and even a little voluntary audience participation. Should be excellent.

Secret Music: May

(Click for the background to the Secret Music listings.)

Big month this one. A lot going on at the University of Leeds in the first half of the month, including their annual contemporary music weekend, from the 9th to the 11th. On the same weekend: Glasgow’s Tectonics Festival. Plus loads elsewhere too. Now updated with details of Sounds New.

Friday 2 May – Friday 9 May: Sounds New Contemporary Music Festival, Canterbury | various venues, times & prices

Argh, how did I miss including Sounds New the first time I posted? Canterbury’s new music festival is always interesting, and this year is no exception. The full week’s programme can be viewed here, but among the highlights that caught by eye are a new piece by Janek Schaefer; a concert by the London Sinfonietta of music by Cardew, Rzewski and Andriessen, and Johannes Kreidler’s Fremdarbeit (the first of at least two outings for this piece in the UK this summer); Sam Bailey doing a Ross Bolleter on a woodland piano; Lauren Redhead playing music for organ and electronics; and a Migro Records portrait.

Friday 2 May: Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds | LSTwo | 6pm | FREE

Leeds School of Music’s new music ensemble, directed by Mic Spencer, performs Birtwistle’s Tragoedia, a rare performance of James Dillon’s Zone (…de azul), and Emmanuel Nunes’ tour-de-force Improvisation I.

Saturday 3 May: Hundred Years Gallery, Hoxton | Weisslich | 7.00pm | FREE/£5 donation

Concert put together by Louis D’Heudieres of predominantly London and Huddersfield based composers, plus some Fluxus classics. Full programme:

Jammie Nicholas: Spandex and gobstoppers
Michael Baldwin: whistles whittling
Alison Knowles: shoes of your choice
David Pocknee: Pieces From @textscoreaday and Fluxus
Charlie Sdraulig between
Peter Ablinger/Louis d’Heudieres: variations on “panpiece” from WEISS/WEISSLICH 7
Louis d’Heudieres: Reconstruction #2 (some of the sounds may be replicable)
Andy Ingamells: How To Explain Songs To A Jellied Eel
George Brecht: Comb Music

Monday 5 May: Café Oto | Bryn Harrison’s Vessels | £6 adv/£8 on the door | 8pm

First London performance of the extended version of Bryn Harrison’s Vessels, recently released by another timbre. (A release that will be reviewed here soon.)

Thursday 8 – Friday 16 May: Dark Inventions: Firewheel | UK tour, various venues, times & prices

New music group Dark Inventions will be touring their show of music by Stef Connor, Benjamin Gait, Patrick John Jones, Christopher Leedham, Martin Scheuregger and Philip Cashian to Manchester, York, Leeds, Newcastle and Liverpool. See website for full details.

Friday 9 – Sunday 11 May: Tectonics Glasgow | various venues, times & prices

The BBC Scottish SO’s Tectonics Festival returns after its acclaimed first year. See the festival website for full details, but highlights include world premieres by John Oswald, Georg Friedrich Haas, James Weeks, Michael Finnissy, Klaus Lang and Sarah Kenchington, plus performances by EXAUDI, Christian Wolff and Thurston Moore.

Friday 9 May: Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds | Heather Roche | 1.05pm | FREE

Clarinetist Heather Roche plays solo works by Martin Iddon, Pedro Alvarez, Charlie Sdraulig and Michael Baldwin.

Friday 9 May: Norfolk Music Room, Victoria and Albert Museum | Mainly Two | 6.30pm | FREE

Violin duo Mainly Two (John Garner and Marie Schreer) play pieces (many of them new) by Charlie Sdraulig, Giovanni Cacioppo, Lauri Supponen, Tomi Räisänen, Cameron Graham, Noam Faingold, Jed Backhouse and Michael Oliva.

Saturday 10 May: Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds | Distractfold | 7.30pm | £8 (students + children FREE)

Distractfold presents a programme featuring a world premiere by Ben Isaacs (Distractfold Commission), the UK premiere of Spanish composer Abel Paul’s Linea de Vacío (Gaudeamus Musikweek 2010 selection), Martin Iddon’s Danaë for string trio, Distractfold co-director Sam Salem’s Dérive (Concours Luc Ferrari 2012 commission) and Canadian composer David Berezan’s acousmatic work, Thumbs.

Sunday 11 May: Clothworkers Centenary Concert Hall, University of Leeds | Percussion ensembles of the Musikhochschule Freiburg and the University of Leeds | 3pm | £8 (students + children FREE)

The percussion ensembles of the Musikhochschule Freiburg (Germany) and the University of Leeds present a works inspired by diverse natural elements, culminating in Iannis Xenakis’ seminal percussion sextet, Pleiades.

Sunday 11 May: Brasenose College, Oxford, Riot Ensemble | 9pm | FREE

Concert of Bach, Crumb and Debussy that also includes the UK premiere of I Shall Contemplate by Grawemeyer award-winning composer Djuro Zivkovic.

Monday 12 May: Senate House, University of London | Christian Wolff | 5pm | FREE

Fresh from his appearances at Glasgow’s Tectonics, Christian Wolff gives a talk on his music, followed by a short concert of his pieces given by Apartment House.

Tuesday 20 May: The Forge, London | Riot Ensemble | 7.30pm | £12/£10

The Riot Ensemble marks the anniversary of Dutilleux’s death with a performance of his Les citations, plus new pieces by Jose Manuel Serrano, Jenna Lyle, Arne Gieshoff, Chris Roe, Amy Beth Kirsten and Drew Schnurr, Ken Hesketh’s transcription of Dutilleux’s piano piece Blackbird, and Arlene Sierra’s Petite Grue. Pre-concert talk at 6.30pm.

Wednesday 21 May: St. John’s College, Cambridge | Riot Ensemble | 7.30pm | £10/£5

Same programme as above.

#promsnewmusic 2014

It’s Proms announcement time again! I’ve just been ruining Twitter for everyone by spewing out a list of all the new music being performed at this year’s festival.

Some quick observations for now:

Sir Harrison Birtwistle and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies both turn 80 this year. They’re two of this country’s most important composers, no doubt, and it’s absolutely fitting that they get some recognition at this year’s Proms. However, among the 37 41 items in my list below, five of them are for Birtwistle and five are for Davies. And three of those are complete concerts, for which I haven’t bothered to list each piece. By my reckoning that means that close to a third of the new music content of this year’s Proms has been written by two octogenarian knights of the realm. Time to cast the net a bit wider perhaps?

Talking of anniversaries, peers, etc, the late Sir John Tavener gets a decent send off with two concerts featuring his music this year. That’s as many as Carter, Harvey, Henze and Nunes were given last year in their memory, between them.

The news is a little better when it comes to women composers: last year I think there were three (Burrell, Gubaidulina, Clyne). This year I count six: Panufnik, Beamish, Grime, Tabakova, Weir and Chin.

Elsewhere, more of the new music seems to be happening in the main bill this year, and not shunted out to the matinees and chamber concerts. Good. The BBC will be hoping that lightning doesn’t strike for a third time with Adams’ ill-fated Short Ride in a Fast Machine (Prom 63). Prom 72 promises “An evening of 20thC English music that looks beyond pastoral stereotypes” but manages not to find room (YET AGAIN) for a Michael Finnissy performance in the Albert Hall. Guys, Red Earth was 26 years ago.

Oh, and there’s a concert called ‘Oriental Promise‘ (Prom 16). In 2014.

As for my highlights? Much harder to pick than last year, since there are far fewer of them. Aurora’s Benedict Mason premiere (Prom 41) is a must; after that … the Francesconi (Prom 28), then either Tavener in Prom 25 or one of the Birtwistle concerts.

I’ll be honest though, there’s much more that interests me in the six concerts of the LCMF 2014 bill than the 70+ of the Proms. Here’s the list for your own perusal:

Update 1: I missed a handful of composers yesterday (Chen, Bignold, Roustom, Tiensuu), mainly because they weren’t mentioned in the headlines for their respective concerts in the guide. Some of these are big new commissions too, so it’s a shame to have to drill down to find that they’re there at all. Still that’s no excuse for me, so sorry about that.

Update 2: And another composer isn’t listed even in the guide – Tom Harrold who, according to Radio 4’s PM programme last night, is writing a piece for the Aurora Orchestra in Prom 41. However I’ll leave his name up here until I see that confirmed in the online programme.

Prom 2 Qigang Chen: Joie éternelle, UKP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/july-19/14922

Prom 4 R Panufnik: Three Paths to Peace, EP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/july-20/14926

Prom 7 J Tavener: Gnosis, WP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/july-23/14934

Prom 8 Pet Shop Boys: A Man From the Future, WP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/july-23/14936

Prom 10 D Horne: Daedalus in Flight, LP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/july-25/14940

Proms 11 and 13 (CBeebies Proms) B Bignold: Around Sound http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/july-26/14942http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/july-27/14946

Prom 14 S Holt: Morpheus Wakes, WP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/july-27/14948

Prom 15 J Dove: Gaia, WP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/july-28/14952

Prom 16 G Prokofiev: Vn Conc., WP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/july-29/14954

Prom 18 H Birtwistle: Night’s Black Bird http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/july-30/14958

Prom 20 S Beamish: Vn Conc., LP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-01/14962

Prom 23 J McLeod: The Sun Dances, LP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-03/14972

Prom 25 J Tavener: Ikon of Light, Requiem Fragments, WP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-04/14992

Prom 28 L Francesconi: Duende, UKP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-07/14976

Saturday Matinee 2 H Birtwistle: Endless Parade http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-09/14994

Saturday Matinee 2 PM Davies: Sinfonia http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-09/14994

Prom 31 H Grime: Near Midnight, LP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-09/15002

Prom 33 H Birtwistle: Sonance Severance http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-10/15038

Prom 35 PM Davies: Caroline Mathilde, suite http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-12/15048

Prom 37 S Reich: It’s Gonna Rain, Desert Music http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-13/15076

Prom 38 PM Davies: Sym no.7 http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-14/15078

Prom 39 B Rands: Pf Conc., UKP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-15/15080

Prom 41 D Tabakova: Spinning A Yarn http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-16/15084

Prom 41 B Mason: Meld http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-16/15084

Prom 46 K Roustom: Ramal http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-20/15118

Prom 46 A Adler: Resonating Sounds http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-20/15118

Prom 48 H Tómasson: Magma, UKP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-22/15130

Prom 49 J Tiensuu: Voice verser, UKP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-23/15134

Prom 55 U Chin: Su http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-27/15030

Saturday Matinee 3 PM Davies portrait http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/august-30/15072

Proms Chamber Music 7 J Weir: Day Break Shadows, WP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/september-01/15090

Prom 61 Z Long: Postures, EP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/september-02/15094

Prom 63 J Adams: Short Ride in a Fast Machine http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/september-04/15098

Prom 63 J Adams: Sax Conc., UKP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/september-04/15098

Saturday Matinee 4 H Birtwistle portrait http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/september-06/15112

Prom 67 B Ranjbaran: Seemorgh http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/september-07/15120

Prom 68 J Widmann: Flûte en suite, UKP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/september-07/15122

Prom 69 J Widmann: Teufel amore, UKP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/september-08/15128

Prom 70 PM Davies birthday concert http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/september-08/15132

Prom 71 C Brubeck: Travels in Time for Three, UKP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/september-09/15136

Prom 72 H Birtwistle: Exody http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/september-10/15138

Prom 75 F Cerha: Paraphrase on the Opening of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/september-12/15144

Prom 76 Gavin Higgins: Velocity, WP http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms/whats-on/2014/september-13/15146

Secret Music: April

(Click for the background to the Secret Music listings.)

Again, some horrible clashes here. Also, if anyone knows of anything happening in the second half of the month, feel free to add to the comments.

Until Saturday 5 April, and Monday 2 – Sunday 8 June: Frontiers Festival, Birmingham | venues, prices, times vary

Birmingham Conservatoire’s annual contemporary music festival this year celebrates the music of Downtown New York. This was originally planned to coincide with the presence of Robert Ashley to receive an honorary doctorate, an event that will sadly not now take place. Ashley’s music is well represented, however, including the complete world premiere of String Quartet Describing the Motion of Real Bodies on 2 April. Other highlights (of many – see the full calendar) include Apartment House playing Songs for Drella (30 March); Pauline Oliveros in conversation (31 March) and a Deep Listening meditation (2 April); early Philip Glass (1 April); Carl Stone (2 April); as well as music by David Lang, Michael Gordon, William Basinski, Elliot Sharp …

Thursday 3 April: Silk Street Music Hall | Guildhall New Music Ensemble | 6:00pm | FREE

James Weeks conducts the Guildhall New Music Ensemble in a programme that includes premieres of works by Edmund Finnis and Thomas Fournil, and music by Aldo Clementi and Salvatore Sciarrino.

“The Guildhall New Music Ensemble is dedicated to the performance of music from the last 30 years, with each project curated by a different member of staff or by a guest curator. For the launch of the ensemble’s regular performance series at the School, Associate Head of Composition James Weeks has curated a programme of local and global compositional activity that will form the foundation of the ensemble’s future concerts.”

Thursday 3 April: Cafe OTO | Dumitrescu and Avram | 8pm | £8 adv/£10 on the door

Iancu Dumitrescu brings his Hyperion Ensemble, and his unorthodox performance practice, back to Cafe OTO for more spectral excursions and seat-of-the-pants musical phenomenology.

Thursday 3 April: Studio Theatre, Library of Birmingham | Automatic Writing | 7pm | £12(£8)

Fresh from giving the UK premiere of Robert Ashley’s masterful Automatic Writing at Cafe Oto, Object Collection (Kara Feely, Travis Just, Aaron Meicht, Daniel Nelson, Tim Parkinson, Fulya Peker) bring the work to Birmingham’s Frontiers Festival. Concert also includes New York Girls by Kara Feely and Travis Just.
Sunday 6 April: Charlie Wright’s International Bar & Jazz Lounge, 45 Pitfield St, London | John White Birthday Concert | 4pm | FREE but pre-booking essential
Performances by Gavin Bryars, Dr. Margaret Coldiron, Carole Finer, Julian Haxby, Chris Hobbs, John Lely, Kaffe Matthews, Tim Parkinson, Michael Parsons, Andrea Rocca, Hugh Shrapnel, Dave Smith, John Tilbury, John White; and by various ensembles, namely: Bad Dog, LelyWhite, Live Batts; and by the official orchestra of the Institute: The London Snorkelling Team.

There will be participatory performances of The Drinking and Hooting Machine and the Newspaper-reading Machine – a more detailed programme will be emailed before the event.

Thai food available from the kitchens. Tickets are free (a hat will be passed around) and open to all, but they are also limited; people must be on the guest-list to attend, and specify if bringing a guest. To get on the list write to: editor@atlaspress.co.uk without delay.

Tuesday 8 April: St George’s RC Cathedral, Westminster Bridge Road | Ian Wilson’s Stations | 7:30pm | email enquiries@matthewschellhorn.com to join guest list

Matthew Schellhorn performs Ian Wilson’s monumental solo piano masterpiece, Stations. Inspired by the Catholic devotion of the Stations of the Cross, Stations is a fourteen-movement work divided into four ‘Books’. Matthew Schellhorn has premiered the work in stages over two years, giving a performance of its final part at Wigmore Hall in 2008. His recording of the piece will be released on Diatribe Records this month, and this concert is the first in a tour that also takes in Glasgow (10 April), Dublin (13 April), Blackheath Halls (14 April), Edinburgh (15 April), Cambridge (16 May), Thorpe Bay (18 May), Wymondham Abbey (29 June) and Ripon (10 July).

Tuesday 8 April: City University, Performance Space | James Saunders portrait | 7pm | FREE, booking essential

Programme: Everybody doing what everybody else is doing; With paper; So many territories (first performance); Things whole and not whole; Everybody do this

Performed by Plus-Minus.

Friday 11 April: Schott Recital Room, 48 Great Marlborough St, W1f 7BB | 7pm | £10

Tim Parkinson plays premieres of new works by Laurence Crane, Matteo Fargion, Joseph Kudirka and himself, plus recent pieces by Jürg Frey and Chiyoko Szlavnics.

Saturday 26 April: Cello Factory, Cornwall Road, London SE1 | 7pm | £8

Swiss percussion trio DeciBells are joined by flautist Jenni Hogan in a programme of Lou Harrison, Scelsi, Pierre Favre, Benjamin Graves, Gwyn Pritchard and Siegfried Kutterer.

Secret Music: March

(Click for the background to the Secret Music listings.)

Better late than never, and with apologies to performers whose concerts this month I’ve already missed. A couple of horrible clashes in this month’s line-up :-(

Saturday 15 March: Jerwood Hall, LSO St Luke’s | Music in the Space Time Continuum II | 6.30pm | £12, students £5

Salzburg’s Ensemble OENM play the following programme:

Josquin (trans R. D. Rusconi): Le miroir de musique (An educational outreach performance)
Haas: Tria ex uno
R. D. Rusconi: Anankè
Grisey: Vortex temporum

Thursday 20 – Sunday 23 March: Britannia House, London E1 | LCMF presents The Music of Bernard Parmegiani | times/prices vary

Four events: a screening of short films and documentaries around Parmegiani’s work (Thursday); performances of two of his greatest works, Violostries (1964) and La Création du monde (1984) (Friday); works from the early 1970s (Saturday); and Dedans dehors (1977) and Espèces d’éspace (2002) (Sunday). There are other live sets and screenings woven in there too. Full details here.

Saturday 22 March – Saturday 5 April, and Monday 2 – Sunday 8 June: Frontiers Festival, Birmingham | venues, prices, times vary

Birmingham Conservatoire’s annual contemporary music festival this year celebrates the music of Downtown New York. This was originally planned to coincide with the presence of Robert Ashley to receive an honorary doctorate, an event that will sadly not now take place. Ashley’s music is well represented, however, including the complete world premiere of String Quartet Describing the Motion of Real Bodies on 2 April. Other highlights (of many – see the full calendar) include Apartment House playing Songs for Drella (30 March); Pauline Oliveros in conversation (31 March) and a Deep Listening meditation (2 April); early Philip Glass (1 April); Carl Stone (2 April); as well as music by David Lang, Michael Gordon, William Basinski, Elliot Sharp …

Thursday 27 – Sunday 30 March: The Warehouse, Waterloo, London | 2nd London Ear Festival of Contemporary Music | times/prices vary

More details on this to follow in a separate post, but in essence: nine concerts over four days, plus masterclasses, pre-concert talks and other fun. Composers featured include Rebecca Saunders, Helmuth Oehring, Simon Steen-Andersen and Georg Katzer. Performers include London Sinfonietta, We Spoke, Uroboros and Eva Zöllner. Full programme (pdf) here.

Friday 28 March: Schott Recital Room, 48 Great Marlborough St, W1f 7BB | 7pm | £10

Tim Parkinson plays premieres of new works by Laurence Crane, Matteo Fargion, Joseph Kudirka and himself, plus recent pieces by Jürg Frey and Chiyoko Szlavnics. Now taking place on 11 April

Saturday 29 March: St Giles’ Cripplegate, London | 7.30pm | £15, £7 (students), £1 (under 16)

EXAUDI  performs works by Chase, Cardew, Cage, Feldman, Skempton, Fox, and joins forces with Finchley Choral Society as the soloists in A. Scarlatti’s Dixit Dominus.

Sunday 30 March: Cafe OTO | 8pm | £8 adv. £10 on the door

In what will now presumably be something of a tribute concert, Object Collection (Kara Feely, Travis Just, Aaron Meicht, Daniel Nelson, Tim Parkinson, Fulya Peker) play Robert Ashley’s masterful Automatic Writing, plus New York Girls by Kara Feely and Travis Just.

Secret Music: February

(Click for the background to the Secret Music listings.)

Saturday 1 February: Cafe OTO, Lauren Redhead, Gail Brande, ORE, 8pm | £8 adv, £10 door

Cumbria-based new music and sound art festival Full of Noises presents two nights of performances by artists from their 2013 programme. Day 2 sees performances from composer Lauren Redhead, who will be presenting a version of her piece Entoptic Landscapes, composed for FON alongside other short pieces; a solo trombone set from Gail Brand, who has been described as “the most exciting trombone player for years” by The Wire; and amplified tuba duo ORE, making music informed (but not limited) by their enthusiasm for drones, doom metal, improvisation and minimalism.

Sunday 2 February: Kings Place, Wespoke, 4pm | £9.50 online/£12.50 on the door

This concert brings together Laurent Estoppey (saxophone), Kerry Yong (keyboards), Serge Vuille (percussion) and Juliet Fraser (soprano) in an exploration of the cultural heritage of song.

The programme features premieres of Antoine Joly’s loving and critical medley, History of Swiss Song, and the fifth volume of Matthew Shlomowitz’s Popular Contexts, as well as Bernhard Lang’s DW16, Songbook, a work that explores difference and repetition in the form of five songs with lyrics by artists such as Bob Dylan and prog-rocker Peter Hammill.

Sunday 2 February: Islington Mill, Manchester, Psappha, 9pm | £8 (student £5)

Performance of Gavin Bryars’ The Sinking of the Titaniccombining live music, live drawing, photography and 3D film.

Wednesday 5 February: The Forge, Chroma + Riot Ensemble, The Flatulence of the Gods“, 7.30pm | £12 (£10 conc)

Kicking off a new series of contemporary music at the Forge (a regular venue in last year’s Secret Music listings), Chroma and the Riot Ensemble present works by Scott Lygate, Amy Beth Kirsten, Chris Mayo, Martijn Padding and Riot Ensemble’s director Aaron Holloway-Nahum.

Monday 10 February: Cafe OTO, 8pm | £5 adv, £6 door

Screening of Viola Rusche and Hauke Harder’s documentary on Alvin Lucier, No Ideas But In Things.

Tuesday 11 to Saturday 15 February: The Vaults, Leake St, London SE1 8SW, WOLF PACK at Vault Festival, 9pm | £10, or £16 for two nights

Two separate shows, TEXT (11 and 14 Feb) and BODY (12, 13 and 15).

TEXT will include The Waves, a rarely performed Frederic Rzewski piece alongside new works by composers Jess Harvey and Tom Green, and new interpretations of songs by Kate Bush and Goldfrapp. The concert will also present works by John White, Malcolm Atkins, Karlheinz Stockhausen and two pieces based on the work of John Cage, one of which is a brand new work devised by the ensemble.

BODY will feature a dance collaboration in the premier of Did You See Me Dance? by Dave Collins and Sam Goodway alongside music by Toru Takemitsu, Edmund Joliffe, Steve Reich and Manuela Kerer, and interpretations of songs by Frank Zappa and Stevie Wonder.

Programmed as part of the Vault Festival.

Thursday 13 February: Club inégales, 108 Gower Street, London, doors 7pm, music 8pm | £10 (£6 conc)

Peter Wiegold’s Club inégales begins its spring season with a concert of music by Howard Skempton.

Tuesday 18 February: City University, London, Richard Craig and Loré Lixenberg, 7pm | Free, but adv booking required

Flautist Richard Craig presents three premieres: two new solo works from his collaborations with Richard Barrett and Kristian Ireland and duo work (with with Loré Lixenberg) by John Croft for voice and bass flute.

Full programme:

Richard Barrett – Vale (world premiere)
John Croft – Deux Meditations d’une Furie (world premiere)
Brian Ferneyhough – Mnemosyne
Loré Lixenberg – Work tba
Kristian Ireland – Luminous (world premiere)

Friday 21 to Sunday 23 February: Bristol New Music, various venues, times, etc.

First event of a new consortium devoted to bringing the best new music to Bristol. The weekend-long festival combines modern classical, jazz and visual arts. Rambler-oriented highlights include Quatuor Bozzini on SaturdayEllen Fullman, also on Saturday (seriously, if you’re anywhere close, don’t miss this); Bristol Ensemble on Sunday; and musikFabrik, also on Sunday.

Friday 28 February: International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester, Psappha, 6pm | £10 (student £8)

A new multimedia production of Anthony Burgess’s musical setting of The Waste Land, performed by Psappha and incorporating rarely seen treasures from the Burgess Estate. Narrated by Jonathan Best, with soprano Rebecca Lea, directed by Elaine Tyler-Hall.

Friday 28 February: Cafe OTO, Apartment House, Jérôme Noetinger, 8pm | £7 adv, £8 door

Swiss composer and sound artist Antoine Chessex returns to Cafe OTO with a new composition for Apartment House, augmented by French electroacoustic musician Jérôme Noetinger. The concert begins with a performance from the duo of Steve Noble (percussion) and Yoni Silver (bass clarinet).

in vain, and the discourse of 21st-century music

What to make of what Sir Simon Rattle, in an unfailingly reprinted introduction to Georg Friedrich Haas’s in vain, calls the ‘first masterpiece of the 21st century’?

I’m not sure. It certainly is a ‘masterpiece’, if we want to continue using that word. That fact is gilt-embossed on every polished note. It’s certainly one of the first of the century, being composed in 2000.

But it’s certainly not flawless beyond criticism.

The hype that now surrounds every performance of in vain, aided by Alex Ross’s endorsement in the final pages of The Rest Is Noise, stoked by Rattle, and slurped up like water to a thirsty man by arts organisations like the Southbank, doesn’t do the work any favours. One of the hopes of our post-(post-)modern culture should be that we can move beyond this sort of language. Not only for elaborate French-philosophical reasons, but also because it kind of spoils things for audiences.

It was hard on Friday evening to listen to the London Sinfonietta’s performance of in vain on neutral terms. One expected at the end of its 70 minutes to be inducted into a cult, and that is a recipe for disappointment. It is immensely seductive, and its technical polish of a very high level. (The Sinfonietta’s performance was equally polished and unflagging throughout.) But at the same time, there is no grit, nothing truly inexplicable, challenging or ill-fitting. In all these respects it’s rather like the Shard, or a Disney film, or an iPhone. Flawless but hollow.

The good bits were very good. The two fades into darkness work especially well. The first is a great coup de théâtre, the second an even more impressive moment of drama. Here’s where I really felt Haas’s concept of an unwanted reprise succeeded. The lighting is not a gimmick, and it contributes something concrete and musical that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. But it is not exactly Haas’s invention (as Liam Cagney observed a few days ago, Grisey was doing this sort of thing in the 70s).

The piece has its longeurs, particularly in the central section, and there are too many moments that, lighting aside, sound like first draft Grisey. Rattle claims in his note that there is very little music like this around but really, there is some. This post-Ligeti, post-spectral filigree is more lingua franca than exception, even if it’s not always done as nicely as this. And although I love Haas’s harmonic aesthetic of perpetual destabilisation/resolution I much prefer it done with more assertive lines and less ornament, as in Blumenstück or the orchestral natures mortes, both much stranger works. (But I accept that’s a personal taste thing.)

If it sounds like I’m griping, I am. If it sounds like I’m deliberately swimming against the tide of critical opinion then I guess I’m doing that too. (Although interestingly I didn’t talk to anyone over the weekend who wasn’t at least slightly underwhelmed.) However, the sometimes off-the-peg discourse around a piece like this, and what that says about our desire for 21st-century masterpieces, and what we think they should sound like, deserves closer examination.

(NB: For those wanting to read more, Jeffrey Means has posted an interesting write-up of the work’s challenges from a conductor’s perspective.)

Reviews resurrected: György and Márta Kurtág and Hiromi Kikuchi, Wigmore Hall, 2006

Resurrected because this concert is essentially being reprised on 1 December as part of the Southbank Centre’s TRIN-fest. Here’s what I wrote back in 2006 when the Kurtág piano duo and violinist Hiromi Kikuchi came to the Wigmore Hall.

Originally published in New Notes, the now-defunct magazine of the now-defunct SPNM.

One behind-the-scenes tidbit: I’d spent the few days before this concert in New York, and had stepped off a red-eye flight back only that morning. So the whole performance was experienced through the haze of jet-lag and a lot of caffeine.

1_gyorgy
Kurtág 80th Birthday Celebration
Wigmore Hall, 9th November 2006

György Kurtág (pianino), Márta Kurtág (pianino), Hiromi Kikuchi (violin)

György Kurtág: Hipartita, Játékok

The György and Márta Kurtág piano duet is one of the great shows in contemporary music and, as expected, attracted a capacity audience to the Wigmore Hall. Their chosen programme – selected from the composer’s 8-volume Játékok series for piano and Transcriptions from Machaut to J.S. Bach – has remained relatively consistent for more than 20 years. However, tonight we were treated to a different cross section of works from the set. Several favourites – ‘Knots’, ‘Study to “Hölderlin”’, Dirge – remained, but there were also surprises. Unusually there were none of the ‘Flower’ pieces that form a backbone to the series, and there was the inclusion of one non-Kurtág work, Bartók’s ‘Canon at the lower fifth’ from Mikrokosmos volume 1.

As a duet the couple are unique performers. Kurtág’s music of delicate gestures seems perfectly matched to husband and wife, full as it is with private jokes, recollections and shared experience, a near dance of crossing limbs and touching hands. At one point in the choreographed performance the composer stands like a stern instructor behind his wife’s shoulder as she performs the sole Játék dedicated to her; this is a quintessential Kurtág moment, taut, tender, and not a little oppressive. A parallel might be made with Milan Kundera, whose erotic, intimate writing is as dark as it is light. Yet for all the theatre Kurtág’s genius is to make it all about the music and nothing more.

The first piece on the programme, Hipartita for violin solo, given a stunning UK première by its dedicatee Hiromi Kikuchi, revealed a different side of Kurtág’s art. Unmistakable in its foreign-familiar harmonic and melodic language it hinted at a new-found easiness of style. Completed in 2004, Hipartita is one of the composer’s most unified pieces, maintaining a notable consistency of character in contrast to his earlier multi-partite works; this is not to say that his expressive range is diminished, however. Several of the nine movements were distinguished by well-balanced, long-breathed phrases suggesting that Kurtág is, in his later years, fully embracing the lyricism that he previously allowed to dwell only at the edges of his music.