Trio Atem: Radical Alchemies at Kings Place

Coming up this Monday: Trio Atem at Kings Place. Well worth your attention if you’re in London.

In Radical Alchemies Trio Atem (Gavin Osborn, flute/Nina Whiteman, mezzo/Alice Purton, cello). showcase acoustic and electroacoustic commissions by some of the UK’s most exciting young composers (Ian Vine, Richard Whalley, Manuella Blackburn, Chris Swithinbank); temA – a classic work from 1968 by elder statesman of contemporary music Helmut Lachenmann; and spatialised performances of new ‘hypergraphic’ scores – a radical and vibrant evolution of the graphic score form from The Alchemy Collection by performance artist Michael Mayhew.


Swithinbank has posted an essay on his blog on Lachenmann’s temA, the piece that brought Trio Atem together in the first place. He says “maybe it will be of more use after hearing a per­form­ance in di­gesting the work,” but it’s worth a look for all the more academically-minded of you.

Also drop by Trio Atem’s Myspace, which includes pieces by Whiteman, Mayhew and Mic Spencer.


Radius, Wigmore Hall, 8 Jan 2008

Following their debut last year, this was Radius‘s second show at this prestigious and traditionally conservative venue. As before, they brought an eclectic collection of works by established modernist masters and younger British composers. Last night we were treated to pieces by Feldman, Xenakis and Vivier, as well as works by Radius’s co-founders Tim Benjamin and Ian Vine, and five short pieces composed in honour of Simon Holt’s 50th birthday. And, as before, what looked like a great programme on paper sounded surprisingly bitty in practice.

Piece by piece I had few complaints, although the Vivier (Paramirabo, 1978) really didn’t click. But then Vivier hasn’t yet done it for me in general, and this piece – of his earlier style, rather rambling, a little gimmicky, and sounding oddly like a lost English modernist – may not have been the best occasion to figure him out. Benjamin’s In memomoriam Tape Recorder didn’t quite work either, unfortunately, but this appeared hamstrung by some on-stage technical difficulties. His Three Portraits (2007, wp) were pithier and came over rather better.

Grouped compositions written for a special occasion are tricky things to review; they’re often an opportunity to hear some things by composers who have previously escaped your attention but, like free sampler CDs, they rarely give you enough to make a proper judgement. Five Birthday Cards for Simon Holt (2007, wp) was, in two instances, an exception to this rule. Larry Goves’s riviniana made more of an impression on me than his My name is Peter Stillman. That is not my real name, which I heard last month (and from which riviniana is derived). And Laurence Crane’s impossibly simple, extremely beautiful music seems perfectly suited to these things; his Simon 10 Holt 50 also best negotiated the formal difficulties of composing with such brevity.

It is a pleasure to hear an ensemble of Radius’s quality testing the Wigmore’s acoustic with some experimental repertoire, and Feldman’s Durations I (1960) was a gift in this respect. Still more successful was Xenakis’s Kottos (1977), given a powerful rendition by cellist Oliver Coates, every detail of the composer’s sonic imagination ringing clear. The other solo piece, Ian Vine’s X (2007, wp) for percussionist I thought was outstanding. I spent the first half without a programme, and could only remember the composer names, not any of the works to be performed, and I intend it as a high compliment when I say that I was pretty sure that this must have been the programmed Xenakis.

Something of an evening for individual rather than collective efforts, then. But at its core, Radius is a gifted and ambitious ensemble, playing music that few others dare touch. Once they iron out the bumps in programming, they should become a force to reckon with. Keep watching this space.

Radius back at the Wigmore Hall

Time to start filling up that 2008 diary you just bought. Radius, the new new music ensemble I featured earlier in the year, are back at the Wigmore Hall in January. The group will perform a programme of new works by leading composers of the new British generation, including Ian Vine, Paul Newland, Larry Goves, and Radius founder Tim Benjamin, alongside works by internationally acclaimed composers James Tenney, Claude Vivier, Morton Feldman, and Iannis Xenakis. The concert will also feature 50:50, a series of short commissions celebrating the 50th birthday of Simon Holt.


Ian Vine: New Work (2007) WP
James Tenney: Spectrum 6 (2001)
Morton Feldman: Durations I (1960)
Tim Benjamin: Three Portraits (2007) WP
Iannis Xenakis: Kottos (1977)
Laurence Crane, Anthony Gilbert, Paul Newland, Larry Goves:
Four commissions to celebrate Simon Holt’s 50th birthday (2007) WP
Claude Vivier: Paramirabo (1978)
Tim Benjamin: In Memoriam Tape Recorder (2007) WP


Date: Tuesday 8th January 2008
Time: 7.30pm
Venue: Wigmore Hall, London

Ticket Prices: £8-£15, concessions available
Booking/info number: 020 7935 2141
Online booking.

Radius at the Wigmore Hall

Just a reminder that Radius, the new contemporary music group I blogged about earlier in the year, have their debut concert at the Wigmore Hall this Friday. Tickets start at £10 and are available online from the Wigmore Hall. Friday’s programme includes works by Andriessen, Berio, Cage and Carter, as well as pieces by ensemble members Ian Vine and Tim Benjamin. Should be good.

Radius – new contemporary chamber group

My blogging new year proper kicks off with news of a new contemporary chamber ensemble set to make their debut in London later this year. They’re called Radius and are led by composer Tim Benjamin and Ian Vine, along with six other outstanding young soloists. Their first gig is, impressively, at the Wigmore Hall on 20th April, where they will be playing works by Tim and Ian alongside Cage, Gilbert, Carter and Andriessen. Tim was kind enough to answer some questions about the group for me:

What’s the back story to Radius – how did you all come together?

I’ve had the idea for ages to set up a top-notch chamber group dedicated to contemporary music. Only last summer did things start to come together, when I was chatting with my friend Daniel Rowland at the Proms – he had just led the BBC Symphony Orchestra under John Adams. I asked whether he was up for doing some new chamber music, and was, very much so. I had recently had similar conversations with Adrian Spillett, our percussionist, Jen George, our flautist, and Olly Coates, our cellist, so it all seemed to come together very quickly.

Our inspiration for the group came from the great “Fires of London” – the band started by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies in the 60s. We even talked to his people about calling our group “The New Fires of London”! In the end, we (very democratically) selected the name “Radius”.

Radius does not receive any public funding – indeed, I’m somewhat against public funding of the arts – instead we receive some money from several generous people I’ve met in the past. I’m also contributing personally, courtesy of some good days business-wise during the years of dot-com madness.
The Wigmore Hall is a pretty special venue for a debut – how did that come about?

It was partly luck and coincidence – they had just had a cancellation when I approached them, looking for a first-rate venue for our debut in London. Of course I had to pitch the group, and it certainly helped that most of our players have performed at the Wigmore before, and were well-known to the management. They’ve certainly taken us with quite a bit of faith and no proof of our ability as an ensemble other than our personal reputations, and we certainly want to repay that trust with a performance from the top drawer on April 20th.

With yourself and Ian Vine, there are two composers already involved with the ensemble; any plans to work closely with others in future?

I go back a long way with Ian – we studied together as undergraduates with Anthony Gilbert at the RNCM – and we’re great friends. Indeed I’ve been talking with Ian for years about the need for an ensemble like Radius, so it was natural he’d be involved. There is another Vine connection – our flautist, Jen, is married to Ian!

In terms of working with other composers: this is certainly a strong possibility. We’ve got a plan in the pipe-line to set up a residential masterclass for composers, and we’ll want to work with a “big name” on that. We’ve also approached a few other younger composers whose work we admire. Of course, as we’re performing lots of pieces by well-known living composers, we like to ask them for their ideas and assistance in delivering their work – for example, Anthony Gilbert (our former mentor!) has been helping Olly and Adrian with his piece “Moonfaring”, which we’re performing on April 20th at Wigmore Hall.

And what does the future hold for Radius?

Fame, riches, and world domination, of course! But more immediately – we’ve got many exciting projects coming up. We’re working with a major national festival to put on a very interesting music theatre collaboration in the Autumn, and I’ve mentioned our planned residential masterclass already. We’re also putting together some proposals for a music-and-film project with a national broadcaster. We’ve had some invitations to do some education projects and further concert dates, and finally, we’re planning to return to Wigmore Hall again next Spring – so hopefully that world domination won’t be far off!