Alan Cooper Reviews: Richard Craig, Juliet Fraser & Patricia Alessandrini



Saturday, 05 November 2016

Although this soundfestival event took place in the midst of the whole day devoted to the music of Boulez it had little to do with him so I have given it a separate review. It was an extraordinary event in so many ways. The venue was amazing. Round the walls were glass enclosed bookcases neatly filled with rows of exceedingly boring looking legal books. It is possible of course that they are filled with all sorts of extremely racy court cases – who knows? On the wall facing us was a huge portrait with what looked like the remnants of old fashioned gas lighting on the wall on either side. It was a very atmospheric venue although as it turned out a not altogether quiet one.
There was an unexpectedly large audience for this event and extra seating had to be brought in. In the middle of the two blocks of seats, composer and electronics expert Patricia Alessandrini was ready to spring into action. At the front, Richard Craig was seated with mini microphones taped to his face and throat.

The first piece was the Scottish Première of Patricia Alessandrini’s piece for fixed media, Nani I. High electronic notes sang above lower notes whose vibrations you could feel as much as hear. This morphed into a mellifluous ringing tone that sounded rather like a large gong. Nani II which we heard after another two pieces followed a similar pattern.

Soprano Juliet Fraser came forward to perform Song I for solo voice by Michael Finnissy. She was absolutely amazing. The song did have words which came across clearly but they were in 16th Century Italian in which I am less than fluent. Actually that hardly mattered because the vocal line was more like instrumental or even electronic composition. Juliet’s voice had pristine clarity and was able to soar or dive in the most astonishing ways. I was surprised and impressed.

Ariche for bass flute and live electronics by Harald Muenz brought forth Richard Craig to perform. I was pleased because a soundfestival without Richard Craig is just not soundfestival. The electronics gave us a series of statements in different languages that merged with what Richard was doing. It was like voices heard in a strange dream.

Esquisses d’Artaud for voice, alto flute and live electronics by Patricia Alessandrini was receiving its World Première. Its quiet parts included effects such as whistling. It was a hypnotic and mesmerising piece.

The first of Gérard Pape’s Two Electro-Acoustic Songs despite its title had no electronics at all just voice and flute. The songs were sung in Hebrew. In the second song, the richness of the electronics sounded almost orchestral.

Ulpirra for solo bass flute another Michael Finnissy composition had Richard Craig on his finest form in a remarkably delicate work.
The final piece in the concert also by Patricia Alessandrini brought all three performers together. This was also quiet music in which all three sound sources were blended together. It was a pity that these last two pieces required more than normal concentration as I tried to block out the hammering coming from a nearby building site. Still, this was an astonishing concert and I would have liked to hear it again.

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