Wine merchants often say that particular wines needed ‘careful selection’ especially after a poor harvest and these words came to mind after last night’s presentation of new music by Peter Horwood. Some modern music is difficult to take to especially if melody, harmony and structure have all been abandoned in the name of some kind of ‘ism. Under the title of Bright, shiny and new, Peter had selected works composed this century and what a fine selection it was. With perhaps a few notable exceptions, many of the composers were unfamiliar and their pieces for the most part unheard.
He focused on works which were approachable starting with extracts from Flight by Oliver Davis, a violin concerto composed in 2012. Davis only graduated in 1994 yet has many pieces to his name. This is definitely a composer to look out for and the concerto was melodic and definitely ‘approachable’.
This was followed by three pieces by Philip Glass: first piano etude No. 17 which was more lyrical than we have come to expect from this composer; the third movement of his Symphony No. 10 which had rhythmic brass and a march like theme and thirdly, the second movement of Symphony No. 10 which had a magical feel to it. It is easy to be put off by some of Glass’s music but this selection was certainly a ‘way in’ to this composer.
We moved on to Kenneth Fuch’s string quartet No. 5 called the American. This was followed by James MacMillan’s Tu es Petrus (no, not the wine!) from his percussion concerto with plainchant (sounds odd described thus but it does work) premiered in 2010 which has been performed in Westminster Cathedral. We also heard his more modest O Radiant Dawn from his Strathclyde motet.
On to the Baltic next and a piece by he Finnish composer Rautavaala, born in 1928, called Incantations – a percussion concerto – and the extract we heard had a xylophone accompanied by a string ensemble. He has written eight symphonies and is described as a ‘neo-romantic’.
The Ukrainian composer Valentyn Sylvestrov contributed some pieces next, first Bagatelles Nos. 1 -3 and then, Waltz of the Hours. Sylvestrov was one of those who struggled under the yolk of ‘Soviet Realism’ but has lived to tell the tale. Parts of his work were reminiscent of Mahler.
Finally, two pieces by Pêteris Vasks: the first movement from his Cello Concerto No. 2 composed in 2015 and started with a long solo section followed by the orchestra and this was followed by Viatore – a tribute to the Finnish composer Avo Pärt. Vasts had to leave Latvia during the Soviet era as he was a Baptist and had to finish his training in Lithuania.
… well not quite final because we had a brief extract from the music to Pirates of the Caribbean composed by Hans Zimmer.
This was a particularly enjoyable evening and one of discoveries. That the speaker was able to come up with nearly two hours of approachable music composed in this century was an achievement.
Next meeting on 15th and is of Bernstein