The Passacaglia of Anglia

snape2Travelling from Clacton, my wife and I attended as paying customers the concert last night at Snape Maltings, Suffolk, as part of the Aldeburgh Festival. The BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins as a replacement conductor at short notice. I think we were very lucky to have him. Very lucky, too, to see such an orchestra in the middle of nowhere, as it were. Although, it wasn’t really nowhere as Britten seemed to be present, of course. Music’s middle. Generally, I was not to be disappointed. To the contrary…

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Believe it or not, we first decided to attend this concert because of Sibelius’ ‘Oceanides’, one of my all-time favourite pieces, not often performed. Only about ten minutes, it tells as much about accretive ambient minimalism as it does the focused complex quirks of a living creature some call the ocean. Whether it was because I was ‘seeing’ it live, it seemed a new piece of music, in a good way. Stirring as well as deadpan.

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‘Everyone Sang’ by Helen Grime was engaging, semi-atonal music which reminded me of Penderecki as well as the ‘Psycho’ shower scene. The composer took a well-deserved bow.

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I love Mahler. I love Mahler songs. Alice Coote was monumental in a grey almost oriental cubist gown and black cat-suit puckishly within, and she brought a decided frisson to ‘Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen’. Drenched in tenebrous emotion. An experience of a lifetime to witness this.

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I believe Benjamin Britten was influenced by Frank Bridge, and the latter’s ‘The Sea’ has long been a favourite of mine. Again, in a good way, this live experience brought it to new life.

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snape3I made a joke on my Facebook page yesterday about having booked months ago for this concert (which turned out to be completely sold out to a very appreciative audience). This joke was that I had noticed it was to be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3. So I might as well have stayed at home! Well, eat my words, as there was a big white sail behind the orchestra, which turned out to be a screen for ‘world premiere’ images made especially (for the ‘Four Sea Interludes’) by Tal Rosner, images that reminded me of my own blog’s regular sea skylines, the Koyaanasqatsi film, Alice Coote’s gown and my wife’s (see to the left) exquisite home-made quilts. Intriguing projected images by Rosner (see video below). But a bit distracting.

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Distracting from ‘Four Sea Interludes’ by Britten. What a performance! I am still shaking with thunderous fear as well as post-traumatic placidity. Utterly memorable. As was the whole evening. (Good to see Martin Handley on the announcer’s microphone in his candlelit monastery cubicle. A voice I have heard for many years on Radio 3, particularly weekend breakfast shows.)

A review by Des Lewis
Earlier classical music reviews linked from HERE

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