The Elysian Quartet’s ‘cellist, Laura, is a close friend of the Rambler household, so it was with pleasure that milady and I braved the Hoxton wastes to see her and the Quartet play at Cargo last night.
There’s a little bit of background here [from the Telegraph, free registration is needed], but in summary last night’s gig at Cargo was loosely billed as a launch for the Elysian’s recording of Gabriel Prokofiev’s new string quartet, written for them. The album features five remixes of the four-movement quartet, one by Prokofiev himself, who until recently has done most of his work in electronica anyway (he’s also Sergei’s grandson, as it happens). The other mixes are by Max de Wardener, David Schweitzer, Boxsaga and Ed Laliq, and all were played last night after the quartet were finished on stage. On first listening, and without being sure which track was which, it’s hard for me to make any particular comments on the individual mixes. Suffice to say, though, they all seemed to steer healthily clear of the pitfalls of trying to remix classical music – cf Reich Remixed, and square pegs and round holes – and at least one of them went down that enjoyably tried and trusted route of throwing in a beat the size of a Range Rover. All good.
The fact that the remixes did, pretty much, work was I thought down to the fact that Prokofiev himself is a producer (although, for obvious reasons, most of his work has been done to date under pseudonyms), and large chunks of his quartet – particularly the last movement – demonstrate a beatz-and-samplez-based way of thinking about music. For all the familiar 20th/21st century string quartet sonorities (and I did think that Prokofiev strayed a little close to Bartók at times) at its best this was Timbatunes klangfarben-beats translated in spirit, if not in literal sound, into the chamber music salon. A tricky feat, but Prokofiev did bring it off.
As did the Elysians and support act, harpist Louisa Duggan, who played two pieces of Debussy, a piece based on Greek legend that I would have sworn was by Birtwistle, but turned out to be by Marius Constant, and a rather lovely little number by Cage which surprised several people in the room. Unpretentious, but moving, high-minded and interesting, and enjoyed over Budvar and chips, it pretty much summed up the whole evening.