Saturday, August 25, 2007

Contemporary music - I really enjoyed it!


Aude Gotto writes: When the King of Hearts’ Gallery in Norwich first exhibited my personal collection, composed exclusively of works by living artists, I wrote in the introduction: “This is the collection of someone who didn’t like contemporary art.” A reassurance for the public who generally feels wary of anything "contemporary”, with some reason, it has to be said,in the light of the Turner Prize and other such highlights of the “art world.”

The same wariness applies to modern music, because of what has been termed the “squeaky gate” school, which makes a concert more of a headache than a pleasure. However, I have come a long way over the years, discovering that there are many talented artists and musicians who use a contemporary idiom to express themselves in ways that are both beautiful and arresting, and who are worth making the effort of opening one’s mind to new forms and harmonies.

Indeed we have had quite a number of contemporary works performed at the King of Hearts: the memorable Messiaen recitals by Peter Hill were the initial foray into a world of sound very different from baroque; in 2000 we celebrated the millennium by the commissioning new works, among which the most rewarding was David Bedford’s Quartet, bringing together Piers Adams on recorder, Simon Dinnigan on guitar, Gary Cooper on harpsichord and Tatty Theo on baroque cello. This proved eloquently that a modern composer can write for period instruments with charm and imagination. I was encouraged in the adventure by the comment of an older lady who was a regular attender, and who exclaimed at the end of a concert: "I was rather worried about this contemporary piece and not looking forward to it, but, do you know, I really enjoyed it!”

As far back as 1994, the adventurous harpsichordist Jane Chapman gave a recital which brought together baroque and 20th century music for the instrument; this was quite a revelation, and the reason why we are having her again this year! So we arrive after this rather long preamble, at the theme of this article, the Autumn Festival at the King of Hearts, in Norwich.

The title, Journey across Time, conveys the purpose, which is to cross over barriers, and present music written in the last hundred years as well as baroque favourites. There is an emphasis on Bach and Handel played by some of your favourite performers, so you will no be stretched all the time! But in each concert contrasting contemporary or at least 20th century pieces are included.

The most avant-garde work is a piece for flute and pre-recorded tapes by Jeremy Peyton-Jones, a premiere for the King of Hearts. I trust that flautist Rachel Brown, for whom it was written and who was keen for an opportunity to play it, will present it with her usual musical sensitivity so that we will enjoy the novelty. Another feature is the use of period instruments, such as baroque violin and particularly harpsichord, by modern composers. Stephen Dodgson writes lovely accessible music, Ligeti has toe-tapping rhythms in Hungarian Rock and Takemitsu creates dreamy Japanese harmonises on the harpsichord.


Full details of Journey Across Time from the King of Hearts website, On An Overgrown Path will be there. And stay on the 'old and new' path with Bach and modern technology

Image of 'Boaz Wakes up and finds Ruth at his feet' - original lithograph by Marc Chagall from Aude Gotto's personal collection. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and other errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk

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