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'This is Tuesday' Concert Series. Ricordi – Beyond 200: ELISION ensemble, Kings Place, London 25.11.2008 (CR)

This was the first of two concerts promoted by publishing house Ricordi, to celebrate 200 years of publishing new music. The programme contained repertoire from Ricordi composers Liza Lim, Salvatore Sciarrino and Franco Donatoni. Performed by the dynamic ELISION ensemble, each of the works was performed with conviction and artistic polish, with some of the pieces impressively performed from memory.

Two works for solo trumpet formed the beginning and end of the programme; Liza Lim’s Wild Winged-One, composed in 2007, draws on material from her opera The Navigator and makes use of a vast range of instrumental sounds, including the use of different mouthpieces, air sounds and whispering the word ‘inside’ through the instrument. For me, one of the highlights of the programme was trumpet virtuoso Tristram Williams’s performance of Donatoni’s Short, which made use of repeated notes and gradually increasing fragments to build a dramatic tension throughout the work. Each of the two movements makes use of a different mute (plunger in the first movement, harmon in the second) and it was fascinating to see the diverse range of effects that could be added to the sound.

Sciarrino’s Sei Capricci is a dexterous display of contemporary techniques for solo violin, which has obvious conceptual resonances with Paganini. These six highly demanding caprices, lasting approximately twenty minutes in total, were mesmerizing, engaging the listener with a completely new violin sound world, which was at times hypnotic and at other times breathtaking. Sciarrino’s music challenges the performer in new ways, and the techniques he has developed often involve dynamics at the extreme end of the pianissimo range. The effect commands attention, and forces the audience to truly listen to what is being played, and to engage with what they are hearing. This was a truly captivating performance by former Arditti Quartet member Graeme Jennings.

The other solo violin work on the programme was Donatoni’s Ciglio, a fascinating work with a rhythmic definition which contrasted in some ways with the other composers’ works in this programme. In a constant state of flux, this largely gestural work was communicated in style, with Jennings allowing the music to have meaning beneath the technical complexities.

The cello was represented in this concert with Enno Poppe’s Herz, a substantial solo work built around small note clusters which move across the range of the instrument. The composer creates some wonderful sounding double stops, as well as employing a range of contemporary techniques which come together to serve as a demonstration of the cello’s capabilities in the twenty-first century. The evolving textures were given a sense of clarity in this excellent performance by Séverine Ballon.

The final member of ELISION to take the stage this evening was clarinettist Richard Haynes, who gave what was for me the performance of the evening with Liza Lim’s Sonorous Body for solo clarinet. This was a spectacular performance of a well executed work, using a vast spectrum of sounds to create an imaginative musical landscape.  Some of the sounds were truly beautiful, from the microtonally inflected alternative fingerings to the oboe-like multiphonic trills towards the end of the work. Haynes’ performance, from memory, was highly communicative and extremely engaging.

The remaining work by Liza Lim was a seven minute piece for cello and clarinet, Inguz (Fertility), composed to celebrate a birth. Lim skilfully combines the sounds of the two instruments to create contrasts and similarities, displaying the diversity in her musical language and her clear understanding of instrumental writing.

An excellent evening, with interesting music performed to the highest standards. Mention should also be made of Kings Place’s Hall 2, which is proving itself as an ideal venue for contemporary music due to its excellent acoustic and flexible seating. Look out for more concerts in the This is Tuesday series.

Carla Rees

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