A blog on gigs, music, art and London.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Xenakis - BBC Symphony Orchestra - Barbican

On Saturday evening I went to the Barbican to see the BBC Symphony Orchestra play as part of the 'Total Immersion' day dedicated to the Greek composer Iannis Xenakis. The programme consisted of a selection of orchestral and choral pieces.

Opening piece 'Tracées' set the tone for the evening with its layered, structured mass of sound, all densely packed into a brief six minutes. Three movement piece 'Anastenaria' followed next. The huge, overlapping blocks of sound and combination of orchestral and choral melody came across as being more accessible than I initially expected. The influential role played by mathematics and architecture in helping to formulate Xenakis' music was at the forefront during these pieces and continued throughout the evening.

The second part of the performance featured three small pieces. 'Sea-Nymphs' was up first, a truncated, jarring sound-collage for a small vocal ensemble. Another short solo piece, 'Mists', followed, comprising irregular, cascading piano lines interspersed with flurries of sharp, erratic notes. The final piece in this section was 'Nuits'. The concert programme had described the piece as being "coruscatingly beautiful", words which are almost guaranteed to get my heart racing when applied to music. It proved to be another complex, jagged, arrythmic mass of choral sound.

The final part of the evening resulted in the full orchestra taking the stage again to play two monumental, challenging pieces - 'Troorkh' and 'Antikhthon'. 'Troorkh' was a staggeringly powerful piece. Piercing, bruising brass lines augmented by Christian Lindberg's solo trombone were pitched alongside imposing orchestral fragments. 'Antikhthon' followed a similar path, punishing brass peaks colliding with percussive orchestral shards.An amazing evening of uncompromising, intellectual music with an enormous, physical, visceral impact. On my way home I listened to 'Black Sea' by Fennesz which seemed kind of appropriate....

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