Some notes from a concert

Took the time to go to a concert of contemporary music tonight, a rare pleasure for me these days. Psappha, at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, playing a concert of largely new work. Sean Friar’s Scale 9 which opened the programme was likeable and energetic, a sort of andante and allegro, or rather andante and blues, in a post- (very-post-) Gershwin vein. Nice to see an ensemble conducting themselves.

I like my flavours strong and simple, and Francesca Le Lohé’s Blind Men and an Elephant was a little too detailed and finely wrought for my taste. It had the merit of turing out to be shorter than I thought it would be, which sounds snarky, but is actually an honest and well-intentioned comment: a compressed, rich piece.

Shows how out of touch I’ve become that I didn’t even know Gordon McPherson had a big three movement prem tonight, Stunt Doubles. The gag here was having a synthesised ensemble play along with the real players. This worked very well: even just a few years ago this would have been a very different piece, but today’s huge sample libraries make a much better job of it than the old 128 midi sounds. The first movement was… maximal, a million notes, but still very clear and structured. In the second movement Gordon dipped into a jazz bag which he normally keeps very well hidden, up in the loft somewhere behind an old sofa: we all liked this.

The third movement gave me some pause, with a slightly, er, naff, pastiche, of a filmic whistly-march type tune. The end of this piece oddly made more sense to me, where we heard this tune again, this time on the synthesised ensemble. Overall I thought this was a good piece, a bit tiring in places.

Dimitrios Skyllas New Miniatures for the Universe rather exceeded my C21st 140-character attention span. Seemed to be rather large miniatures. And, the Steve Reich Double Sextet: boring.

But, very well played by Psappha, as were all the pieces in this well balanced and engaging concert.

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