Sunday, October 07, 2007

New music - Snape Skyscape


The photo above was taken a few hours before last night's world premiere of Giorgio Battistelli's Snape Skyscape. Orford Church can be seen on the skyline. It was here that all three of Britten's Church Parables were given their first performances and recorded, as was his children's opera Noye's Fludde. Snape Skyscape was a commission from Aldeburgh Music, and it was premiered in Snape Maltings, which is just out of my picture to the left, by the Britten-Pears Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins. In his programme note the composer explains:

'The central idea of Snape Skyscape has nothing to do with 'descriptive' or 'programme' music. It's simply about impressions received during my stay in Aldeburgh, a place rich in history that has a special kind of energy. Snape Skyscape can be understood as a small musical fresco, in which the energies of the natural landscape and those of intellectual ceativity intetwine and feed into each other. It's a personal expression of what Aldeburgh means to me. The translation of colour, of the wind, of the sea, into fractal forms inevitably loses something, but it nevertheless conveys some form of meaning.'

Although Giorgio Battistelli distances the work from 'programme' music, Snape Skyscapes is a dazzling invocation of 'pure' Aldeburgh with fractals from Peter Grimes and the brutal North Sea coast. But this is not a backward-looking tribute to a dead master. Paul Griffiths has written 'the past is not a path we and our predecessors have travelled but a labyrinth, and a labyrinth forever in flux.' Britten's music was forever in flux, and post-Britten Aldeburgh, thankfully, remains in flux through Aldeburgh Music's visionary work with new music. Their latest commission, Giorgio Battistelli's Snape Skyscape, is a succession of shimmering musical fractals that are, again, forever in flux. It speaks with a unique voice. But it is a voice relevant both to Britten's own special soundscape, and that of other composers, such as Boulez and Cage, who were writing flux, in the form of chance, into their music elsewhere in the labyrinth.

Snape Skyscape is scored for large orchestra including a range of percussion (a fractal of Prince of the Pagodas), celeste and sampler. It was delivered with persuasive advocacy by the young players of the Britten-Pears Orchestra and Martyn Brabbins. Intelligent marketing resulted in a good, but by no means full, house in deepest rural Suffolk on an autumn evening. Thankfully no embarassing lectures from the podium to introduce the new work, and no Pastoral Symphony to soften the blow of new music. It is a comment on the power of Giorgio Battistelli's (right) new music that the core repertoire that followed seemed anti-climactic. Another work from the labyrinth, Walton's First Symphony from 1935, sounded with much circumference and little circle in the second half.

Now read more about that 'special kind of Aldeburgh energy'.
Programme note with thanks to Aldeburgh Music. Giorgio Battistelli's music is published by Casa Ricordi. Header photo (c) On An Overgrown Path 2007. 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

1 comment:

Pliable said...

Today's review of this concert in the Eastern Daily Press certainly comes within Norman Lebrecht's categorisation of "nutritional value is lower than a bag of crisps."

And I bet the reviewer couldn't count the calories in the crisps - the Walton Symphony has four movements, not five.

Trouble is, Norm, the EDP is the largest circulation paid-for newspaper in the region.