Theatre in Wales

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Varied Concert of Ives, Glass & Stravinsky

Charles Ives, Philip Glass & Igor Stravinsky

London Orchestra da Camera, Crouch End Festival Chorus & Inner Voices, , Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, , February 2, 2020
Charles Ives, Philip Glass & Igor Stravinsky  by London Orchestra da Camera, Crouch End Festival Chorus & Inner Voices, My last cultural endeavour in London saw me back at the Southbank, now in the Queen Elizabeth Hall. With the London Orchestra da Camera and Crouch End Festival Chorus proved an enticing programme hard not to resist. Bushy tailed conductor David Temple introduced the concert and we got to hear the classic work from the great American composer Charles Ives. Pushing the boundaries of music decades before most other composers, Ives created work that is shocking, alluring and simply amazing. In The Unanswered Question, we hear hushed strings, play achingly quiet, as a trumpet off stage, declares the theme that is mysterious and other worldly. We then hear a quarter of woodwind try to understand the trumpet, only to become frustrated and then mock the melody it creates. This clever little piece has much to say about humanity, the perception of a higher entity and how both can mingle together. This is one interpretation of the piece, perhaps the lack of understanding between people is another. Simple music, with a huge weight to it.

Two works by Stravinsky followed. In Babel, David Horovitch narrated an extract from the Bible, retelling the story, with a male chorus and a lively orchestra filling in the rest of the material. This was interesting stuff, Horovitch had full conviction with the material, even if it felt like he was a little bit underrehearsed with the conductor. In his Symphony of Psalms, Inner Voices, an ambitious, young choir joined the forces for this pristine piece. Itís quite odd, with no high strings (celli and basses remained), two pianos and plenty of woodwind and the mixed chorus of Crouch End Festival Chorus made it their own. These fleeting passage from the Psalms help formulate a great score for all to play and sing. Many bouncy moments remain as highlights. Though it is the final part, with sombre and serene harmonies that lifts the spirts as if heaven was among us in the hall. A lively rendition of his quirky choral symphony.

The final piece on the programme was Itaipķ by Phillip Glass. Commissioned by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to commemorate the opening of the world largest hydroelectric dam on the Brazilian and Panama border (a controversial operation with the removing of thousands of locals and the deforestation that followed). Glass sets the words in the Guarani language about a native creation myth. The music follows the source of the water to the damn in dramatic fashion. Think Smetanaís Vlata but with many more arpeggios. Iíll confess, as I have done with some of Glassí other work, it was far to limited in the repetitive cycles and could have easily been half the length it was. The chorus here have some dazzling moments and the percussion also stood out, though most of the players never seemed to stop in flux. Lighting by Tom Turner and Isabella Van Braeckel added an extra layer to the piece, with blue and purple hues cascading on and around the players. I doubt it is a piece I would return to. Think Iíll just stick to Akhnaten instead.

Much praise should be given to all these talented musicians who massed onto the stage for this mixed concert of surprises.

Rating: 4 stars

Photo Credit: Southbank Centre Website

Reviewed by: James Ellis

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