Double Image at St John's Smith Square, November 1999.
It is a measure of the stature of at least some of the music in Double Image's concert at St John's that the performance of Messiaen's 'Quartet for the end of time' in the second half did not totally eclipse memories of the three pieces receiving their Capital premieres in the first half. Sadie Harrison's 'No Title Required' takes its title from a poem by Wistawa Szymborska, reprinted in full in the programme - the final lines, 'I'm no longer sure that what's important is more important than what's not' seemed relevant in her constant recontextualisation of material. Although the ending to the first movement seemed perfunctory, there was much of substance in this intricate moto merpetuo and the ensemble responded well to dramatic shifts.
There was another external stimulus to David Carhart's 'Starry Night', this time a painting by van Gogh. The result was less impressive, however, seeming strangely lacking in confidence, a criticism which could not under any circumstances be applied to Diana Burrell's 'Double Image'. Burrell's compositional style is assured and clear-sighted. Her use of prepared lower strings in the piano was no gimmick but rather a bona fide expressive tool, and the ensemble demonstrated exceptional tonal command of their instruments in the static opening of the second movement.
The challenges of the Messiaen , a heart-felt statement from the composer's time spent in Stalag VIIIA in Görlitz, took us to a different world. Messiaen's statement is on a different level from the earlier works in the concert, a leap the players seemed to feel and respond to. Although the opening 'Liturgie de cristal' was appropriately static, it could have been given a touch more character. Especially noteworthy were Andrew Sparling's clarinet solo in 'Abime des oiseau' and Philippa Ibbotson's account of 'Foulis d'arcs-en-ciel', her burnished G string performing a remarkably close imitation of a cello. The final 'Louange à l'immortatlié de Jésus' provided an appropriately rapt and intense ending to the evening.
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