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News

Kim Kashkashian - Article in The Strad
Jeremy Gill - Dallas Observer review of Jeremy Gill's Serenada Concertante
Arditti Quartet - Highlights
artist_pict Arditti Quartet


Artist page
Arditti Quartet/ Hilliard Ensemble at the Huddersfield Festival
November 23, 2009, 12:00 am

November 23, 2009
Arditti Quartet/ Hilliard Ensemble at the Huddersfield Festival
Jonathan Harvey is composer in residence at the celebration of
all that is new (and some that isn’t) in contemporary
music
Geoff Brown

*

Recommend?

Festivals may face economic woes but the Huddersfield
Contemporary Music Festival, now in its 32nd year, suffers no
shortage of new material. There is also the back catalogue of
contemporary music. Graham McKenzie, the director, usually gives
it little space, though he’s done well to enthrone
Jonathan Harvey as this year’s composer in residence.

Uniquely among contemporary British composers, Harvey balances
the lure of electronics with the comforts of the spiritual.
Friday’s opening sounds came from his 1980 tape piece
Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco, unfolded across four speakers while
images from the video collective Visual Kitchen filled a square
on the floor.

Imagine yourself spinning through the solar system with stars
encircling, an eye’s iris flaring and meshed lines
erupting in synch to Harvey’s jolting and drifting
beauties (derived from bells and a chorister’s voice).
This uplifting experience is on tap throughout the festival in
the calm of St Thomas’s Church.

More spiritual soothing followed in St Paul’s Hall with
the British premiere of Wolfgang Rihm’s –ET
LUX–, for four voices (the Hilliard Ensemble) and four
strings (the Arditti Quartet). From Rihm we usually expect
rambunctious expressionism, but in this 70-minute span the
German composer has calmed down. Armed with splintered words
from the Latin requiem, the slow-paced vocal lines move in and
out of consonance, echoing late medieval and renaissance
practice. Strings swing between the ethereal and jagged. The
music is always travelling and metamorphosing, searching for
repose. It is always beautiful and exciting, too, especially
with these performers.

At Bates Mill it was time for Richard Barrett, a British
composer usually associated with clotted complexity and windy
pretensions. At first earful, his epic Opening of the Mouth,
from the 1990s, offered more of the same. The tragic words of
Paul Celan’s poems were fractured into inaudibility; only
the instrumental prowess of the excellent international group
ELISION brought comfort. But two thirds of the way through,
material and manner fused, with Ute Wassermann’s
juddering mezzo-soprano embodying the anguish of Celan’s
accusing prayer to the God who allowed the Holocaust. Music of
direct communication at last.