The tidal wave of new music reached its climax this weekend. London’s two main concert venues were in action, the Barbican with the latest in the LSO Futures series and the Southbank Center with the latest happenings from SoundState, its five-day new music festival.
The London Symphony Orchestra’s Futures series dates back to 2013 and is closely linked to the LSO’s Panufnik Composers Scheme. Two of the three new works in the Barbican program come from composers supported by the program, one present, one past.
The first was Sunset by Joel Järventausta, in creation, a sound portrait of the sun painted in scintillating sonorities very fashionable among young composers. The second was Francisco Coll’s Violin Concerto, conventional in its three-movement form, but not in the extremes of its sonic universe. The work was written for livewire violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, and its dynamism inspired her exploratory journey from unbridled ferocity to a haunting central landscape of desolate, sometimes restless calm. It exerts the influence of a major work.
Helen Grime’s outline wasn’t all that different. Trumpet Concerto: Night Sky Blue, the second premiere of the evening. This was also performed by a star soloist, Håkan Hardenberger, and pushed it hard with jaw-dropping cascades of notes. The concerto is shorter than Coll’s and in one movement, both more compact and less varied. Its salient feature is the tension of construction, charging its energy with a small number of ideas, driven by a pattern of swinging minor thirds.
The three pieces were performed by the LSO and conductor François-Xavier Roth, and two symphonic poems by Strauss were added for a contrasting touch of romantic virtuosity.
Meanwhile, SoundState at the Southbank Center was coming to an end. What would new music be without the Arditti Quartet? Other string quartets may also focus on new music now, but the Arditti have been in this business longer and more conscientiously than anyone.
The first of the four works in this recital at the Purcell Hall had been given by the Arditti Quartet and two were co-commissions. During a first audition, the strongest impact was made by Clara Maida . . . spinnt for amplified string quartet. The music “spins” kinetically charged patterns, which are driven in rhythm, and knows where it is going, rarely stopping to breathe.
A much more complex design was promised by Tansy Davies Nightingales: ultra-deep field, which brings together the names and dates of birth of the members of the Arditti Quartet, spring in Kent, Hubble Deep Field images of distant galaxies and the song of nightingales. As improbable as it may seem, the music linked the different sources of inspiration with a logic of its own.
Each of these plays received its first performances in the United Kingdom, as did those of Christian Mason This present moment was once an unimaginable future. . .and the rather disjointed String Quartet No. 8 by Betsy Jolas,Topeng. All benefited, as always, from having the Arditti Quartet as champions.