Seen and Heard Concert Review
Egberto Gismonti : Forrobodo and
All the way through the first half of this concert, the man in front of me was having the back of his head stroked very gently by a woman sitting next to him. He left her during the interval and didn't return. I've no idea why, but I can't believe that the music was the problem.
In her first season as Bath Festival's
Artistic Director, Joanna MacGregor has stamped it firmly
with her taste for cross-cultural collaboration. Combining
orthodox performances of short Stravinsky and Bach concerti
with jazz based works and re-worked versions of other
Bach pieces was an inspired idea that made for a fruitful
mix, greatly appreciated by the packed Pavilion audience.
Perhaps the most controversial pieces in the concert were the extracts from the Art of Fugue, played in Ms MacGregor's own arrangements for orchestra, piano and saxophones. Taken from the recent Moondog / Art of Fugue tour in which the American street musician's works were played alongside this radical re-working of Bach's uncompleted, late and mysterious masterpiece, the overall effect was distinctly startling. After beginning with Contrapunctus I as a piano solo, the following movements were played in styles that emulated Stravinsky once again, something that sounded rather like Jacques Loussier and a fast and furious version of Contrapunctus IX played by the whole ensemble complete with saxophones. It was certainly radical but suprisingly effective and left me wanting to hear more.
The duos from Deep River, the latest CD collaboration between Ms. MacGregor and Andy Sheppard were very touching, especially Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child in which Sheppard's breathy and high fluting sounds on the tenor sax were perfectly reflected by the piano's rippling treble and increasingly boogie-like left hand. Georgia Lee by Tom Waits, a gentle slow waltz with repeating piano ostinato produced some wonderful soprano saxophone sounds in a quiet reverie that built up great intensity from the theme's many repetitions.
Completed by Stravinsky's extraordinary
Rag-Time, two pieces by the Brazilian composer
Egberto Gismonti - part samba , part African rhythms -
and by the finale of Andy Sheppard's own concerto View
from the Pyramids (written for Joanna MacGregor and
the Bournemouth Sinfonietta in 1994 and reminiscent here
and there of John Adam's Short Ride in a Fast
Machine) this was a truly innovative concert which
revealed both the huge range of Joanna MacGregor's musical
interests and her unparalleled capacity for drawing compelling
listening from all of them. The audience naturally wanted
more at the end and were rewarded with a blistering performance
of something by Piazzolla - one of the many versions of
Adios Noninos I think, but since it was unnanounced
I can't be sure.