Ligeti, a composer whose music has infiltrated popular consciousness thanks to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, remained a maverick throughout his career, consistently challenging the received wisdoms and ideologies of the composing avant-garde. His four-movement Chamber Concerto is considered one of his greatest works. Each movement strongly contrasts in character – from the shimmering ‘micro-polyphonic’ texture of the first, to the strongly mechanical, clockwork rhythms of the third.
Arnold Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony Op. 9 was a model for Ligeti’s Chamber Concerto (in instrumentation if not textures or forms). His later masterpiece Five Pieces for Orchestra, here given in its arrangement for ensemble, serves as a superb example that atonal music can be as moving and expressive as tonal music – from terror, anxiety and chaos to wistfulness and beauty.
Completing this exhilarating programme are two pieces by composers with connections to these two greats and a recent work by one of today’s most promising young British composers.
Alexander Goehr, whose father studied under Schoenberg in the 1920s, composed his impeccably crafted Suite for flute and harp with string trio, clarinet and horn at the behest of Benjamin Britten. Castiglioni, like his friend and champion Ligeti, was an ‘outsider’ from the mainstream European avant-garde – Tropi is characterised by the interchange of loud, virtuosic passages with ones of mute sparseness. Helen Grime’s Luna, premiered by the Scottish Red Note Ensemble in 2011, takes its inspiration from the Ted Hughes poem Harvest Moon.
Niccolò Castiglioni: Tropi
Arnold Schoenberg: Five Pieces for Orchestra (ensemble version)
Helen Grime: Luna
Alexander Goehr: Suite Op.11
György Ligeti: Chamber Concerto
[Ligeti’s Chamber Concerto] received a wonderfully sympathetic reading by Knussen and his players, full of painterly attention to colour and balance, and always alive to the score’s subtle nuances. On a different level Helen Grime’s ‘Luna’ offered fragments of florid chattering and quiet reflection, while Niccolo Castiglioni’s ‘Tropi’ indulged in sound effects.
I enjoyed all the works, particularly the Schoenberg set and Helen Grime’s piece which had turned out to be so effective in rehearsal that it was switched from before the interval to the be concert opener. But I found the opportunity to study Oliver Knussen’s conducting technique the most rewarding aspect of the evening. Perhaps I have never been sitting so close to him, perhaps I’ve always been on his right – I can’t remember – but I certainly haven’t previously noticed how he uses every digit on his left hand separately to give incredibly precise instructions to the performers.
Information No.0121 616 2616
CBSO Centre is equipped with adapted toilet facilities, key signposting in Braille and the hall is fitted with an infra-red amplification system (receivers are available on request). Limited free parking can be arranged on request.
Access to CBSO Centre’s concert hall, bar and toilets is all flat, with no steps or ramps. The hall configuration is flexible, meaning we can accommodate specific seating requests.
Guide dogs are very welcome at BCMG concerts. You can either keep them with you in the auditorium during the concert or event, or we will be happy to look after your dog for you in the foyer while you enjoy the performance.