Monday, September 06, 2004


Though I’ve only got to one Prom this year (a superb dramatic reconstruction of Britten’s 'Curlew River'), there are many I would have loved to have attended. The goodies on offer have included last Friday’s Ensemble Intercontemporain performance (under the composer’s baton) of Pierre Boulez’s ‘Sur Incises’.

Scored for trios of pianos, harps and percussion, this piece started life – like much of Boulez’s recent work – as a modest piano solo written a decade ago. It is now well over half-an-hour in length, elaborated to a shimmering exploration in sound. Complex surface textures jostle to introduce underlying themes of bustle and tranquillity as the piece unfolds. One of Boulez’s major inspirations here was Stravinsky’s emblemic ‘Les Noces’.

Tonight it’s the turn of Simon Rattle to unleash the formidable skills of the Berlin Philharmonic in Messiaen’s breathtaking swansong ‘Eclats sur l’au dela’ and Debussy’s richly suggestive ‘La Mer’; two quite different takes on the notion of musical impressionism. I'm also glad to see that, honouring his own Birmingham years, Rattle is taking the Phil back to Symphony Hall as part of their UK tour - for the first time in sixty years, I believe.

Earlier today the enterprising Britten Sinfonia gave the world premiere of Simon Holt’s ‘The Coroner’s Report’ in (of all places) the Lecture Theatre of the Victoria and Albert Museum. Good to see contemporary composition inhabiting – quite literally – historic Britain!

NMC also have a new, second disc out of Holt's compositions: 'Kites', 'Feet of Clay', 'Eco-Pavan', 'Boots of Leath' and 'Lilith'. The Rattle-conducted 'Boots of Lead' disc [NMC094] will be released in October 2004.

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