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S & H Concert Review

IAN PACE - piano, voice CARL ROSMAN - clarinets, voice,  St Cyprian's Church, Glentworth Street , London NW1, 8th October 2002 (PGW)


AARON CASSIDY - metallic dust for amplified bass clarinet; eight monophonic miniatures for solo pianist [world premieres]
MARK R. TAYLOR - 'Comment ciseler les legumes'; For Chris Newman at 40 [world premiere]
- coil [world premiere]
CHRIS DENCH - ruins within
IAN PACE - '...
quasi una fantasmagoria Op. 120 No. 2...' [world premiere]
Sonata for clarinet and piano in Eb Op. 120 No. 2

Following their 'Textmusic' concert at King’s College last June, Ian Pace and Carl Rosman introduced new music in another characteristically innovative programme. For once, it was not a marathon for listeners (fitting nicely into two hours!) but the executive difficulties of most of the music, taken in their stride by Pace and Rosman, would have beaten most famous performers on the ordinary concert circuit into insensibility.

Aaron Cassidy, a young American composer from Buffalo, explored a plethora of unusual playing techniques as an integral compositional parameter.  His virtuosic bass clarinet piece was ‘intensely physical’ with a ‘visual counterpoint’ arising from separation of fingers from breath, the outcome created by ‘the interaction of the two decoupled layers’. The result was exhilarating and it was followed by deceptively listener-friendly monodic piano pieces (in the tradition of Alain & Evangelista – Salabert SCD 9102). He gave me a copy of the score, and I was hoping to tackle them at home with my amateurish pianism, but was astonished to find (as recently with the delightful piano music of Richard Emsley) that although pretty on the page, their complexity is absolutely daunting for ordinary mortals, which you’d never guess from hearing alone.

The most interesting other novelty was a new ‘double melodrama’, by Ian Pace himself, a primarily text-based work, constructing parallel fantasies and commentaries on the worlds of performing and teaching. At a time when treatment of repetitive muscle injury suffered by musicians is advancing rapidly, it was notable that he featured the masochistic pleasure in physical pain (with a real risk of disability ensuing) as a component of technical prowess, against a backdrop of distant fragments from Brahms's second clarinet sonata. He played most of ...quasi una fantasmagoria with classical piano scores tucked under his arm-pits (to ensure he kept his elbows in) whilst Rosman mused about the ‘commodified emotive effects’ which some performers are taught to impress gullible audiences, a ‘phantasmagoria’ – as Ian Pace writes in his perceptive programme note - which makes serious music often become ‘little more than light and diverting, and as such easily assimilable by the entertainment industry’. A little overlong at this first performance, but a unique, challenging and thought-provoking text-music experiment.

After ...quasi una fantasmagoria… Carl Rosman and Ian Pace (on a small K.Kawai piano with an old-fashioned sound) ended with a forthright and satisfying performance of the Brahms sonata, demonstrating that the best contemporary music specialists can bring new perspectives to music of the past, and may be well able to match their more famous rivals in masterpieces of the classical canon.

Superfluous to lament that the audience in the British Music Information Centre’s spacious new home was sparse; to give an illusion of intimacy for such esoteric events they would do well in future to re-arrange the seating in a semi-circle close to the performers.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Ian Pace will play Messiaen’s Catalogue d’oiseaux complete at King’s College, London on 25 October.

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