Arts, OldVenue

Britten Sinfonia

Featuring works and arrangements from the composer, conductor and pianist Thomas Adés, it proved to be a charismatic evening, filled with much energy in pieces such as the Stravinsky Airs du rossingnol andSuites No. 1 and 2 for small orchestra. Set in two halves, the repertoire was divided thematically, opening beautifully with a simple piano piece, echoed in a small ensemble. The huge legato phrases and muted acoustics gave the piece a very warm tone, evoking thoughts of summer. Adѐs introduced the programme with a short explanation of the pieces and the atmosphere he hoped they would create. Following the minor disruption of a child in the rear stalls, who told the orchestra to “shut up”, and who was promptly removed by her mother, the rest of the concert flowed without a hitch.

The programme was well devised, Concentric Paths giving us exactly that: pieces which experimented with rhythm, repetition and cycles within the piece but each time with a different colouration and tone. The unusual tempo of many of the pieces was initially quite disjointing, but this seemed to be Adѐs’ intention: to lift the music off the page more and blend with art. In his introductory talk, he spoke of wanting to paint with the music, and that is exactly what he achieved.

Adѐs has a brilliant ability to produce fresh meaning from old works. Les Baricades misterieuses (1717) by Couperin, originally written for harpsichord, comes alive under his arrangement and conducting. There were many chuckles of delight from the audience at the pleasing sounds and harmony. The original piece and harpsichord sound was definitely still there, but with a new life.

Solo violinist Pekka Kuusisto, from Finland, showed incredible dexterity and effortless control over his instrument, and it was fascinating to see the energy with which he performed, pulling out the highest notes with pinpoint accuracy. Along with Adѐs, Kuusisto has a prestigious history in musical achievement. Internationally renowned and with performances with the Sibelius Academy Orchestra, Oslo Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony and Ulster Orchestras, he is excelling both as a performer and as a director of violin. One can be sure that this acclaim will only rise further.

Britten Sinfonia has recently been appointed as an Associate Ensemble at the Barbican and tours internationally, receiving many awards, such as the impressive Royal Philharmonic Society Awards. This chamber orchestra has also been Grammy nominated and is definitely one to look out for in the future. 


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emmawebb Emma was Arts editor 2011-2012.

May 2021
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