London Sinfonietta/Gourlay review – finely focused foray into microtonal music

The Roundhouse, London
Ligeti’s influential Ramifications rounded off a beautifully executed programme of works that followed in his pioneering wake

The London Sinfonietta’s concert under Andrew Gourlay marked the Proms’ return to the Roundhouse, the festival’s regular venue for new music in the late 60s and 70s, though used infrequently since. It took place inside Ron Arad’s Curtain Call, an enveloping circular installation of silicone rods, on to which video images were streamed, sometimes beautiful, sometimes hallucinatory. It was mesmerising, and a bit trippy.

Andrew Gourlay.
Andrew Gourlay. Photograph: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

The programme, beautifully executed, focused primarily on microtonal music, with Ligeti’s 1969 Ramifications placed at the end as a reminder of its influence on many of the later works played before it. Georg Friedrich Haas’s Open Spaces II receiving its UK premiere, pays tribute to Ligeti’s experimentations and forms a memorial to the US microtonalist James Tenney, who died in 2006. Its slowly shifting sound clusters fracture into bewildering dissolution at its close.

There were two world premieres. Mica Levi’s brief, brilliant Signal Before War, written for the Sinfonietta’s leader Jonathan Morton, is a violin solo that traces an agonising microtonal ascent through the instrument’s range. David Sawer, in contrast, avoids microtones, and his beguiling April\March stood at a tangent from the rest of the programme. Inspired by a short story by Borges, it will eventually form a ballet, choreographed by Aletta Collins, in the Royal Ballet’s repertory. Playing on the idea of variation, both as a process of musical transformation and a display piece for a single dancer, it suggests a formal landscape gradually and mysteriously torn apart by dissonance.


Tim Ashley

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

BBC Singers/London Sinfonietta/Atherton – review

Contemporary music including a welcome revival of Peter Maxwell Davies's Il Rozzo Martello made this a notable addition to the Proms Saturday matinee series, writes Andrew Clements

Andrew Clements

22, Aug, 2011 @2:57 PM

Article image
Marius Neset/London Sinfonietta review – scorching, soulful and inspiring
An intense live rendition of the saxophonist’s orchestral suite Snowmelt set the scene for a final festival weekend of improv, excitement and surreal grooves

John Fordham

20, Nov, 2016 @1:48 PM

London Sinfonietta – review
Kicking off the Kings Place festival, the London Sinfonietta's musicianship was compelling, writes George Hall

George Hall

09, Sep, 2011 @2:56 PM

Article image
BBC Philharmonic/Noseda at the Proms review – Missa Solemnis shakes with emotion
Choristers and soloists brought freshness and precision to the Beethoven mass in conductor Gianandrea Noseda’s keenly expressive interpretation

Erica Jeal

20, Jul, 2016 @11:42 AM

Article image
Staatskapelle Dresden/Thielemann review – revelatory grace and wit
The Strauss specialists played his Till Eulenspiegel with a unique understanding, and rescued Mex Reger’s unfairly neglected Variationson a Theme of Mozart from obscurity

Andrew Clements

09, Sep, 2016 @1:42 PM

Article image
NYOS/Volkov and BBCSSO/Dausgaard at the Proms review – poised snow-inspired premiere and refined Russians
Young and established Scottish musicians brought a folksong-inspired new work from Helen Grime and superb accounts of Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev

Tim Ashley

08, Aug, 2016 @10:50 AM

Article image
BBCSO/Davis at the Proms review – vivid depictions of natural illusions
Anthony Payne’s 80th birthday commission is a substantial, beautifully crafted symphonic poem and choral work in the tradition of Bax and Bridge

Andrew Clements

27, Jul, 2016 @12:42 PM

Article image
Simón Bolívar SO/Dudamel review – Venezuela's finest on world-class form
Finely judged Ravel shone alongside vivid works by South American composers in a Prom that highlighted the orchestra’s fluid excellence

George Hall

05, Sep, 2016 @11:02 AM

Article image
Romeo and Juliet at the Proms review – thrillingly intense Berlioz drama
This complex Shakespearean symphony gained a sinister edge by the Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique under John Eliot Gardiner, with beautiful choral singing throughout

Tim Ashley

01, Aug, 2016 @11:09 AM

Article image
Berlin PO/Rattle/BBC Singers/EIC review – a powerful Proms tribute to Boulez
The Berlin Philharmonic lead two superb concerts devoted to the late Proms fixture Pierre Boulez, while violinist Jeanne-Marie Conquers triumphs

Andrew Clements

04, Sep, 2016 @12:01 PM