London Sinfonietta/Baker review – Tansy Davies' distinctive music lingers

King’s Place, London
The raw intensity of Davies’ writing was perfectly captured in this concert that also showcased impressive works by Naomi Pinnock and Clara Iannotta

Jolts and Pulses, the London Sinfonietta’s concert devoted to Tansy Davies’ music, was the latest in the Kings Place Venus Unwrapped series. Conducted by Richard Baker, the portrait included six of Davies’ works, ranging across 20 years of her composing career, including the first performance of a co-commission from the Sinfonietta. It was a vivid demonstration of how distinctive her music can be, and though the programme she had devised also included quietly impressive pieces by Naomi Pinnock and Clara Iannotta, it was her own musical images that lingered longest in the memory.

The brand new work, The Rule Is Love, is a song cycle to words by John Berger and Sylvia Wynter, one text by each, both set twice. Songs haunted by the tropes of pop music (the score describes the music as “channelling David Lynch electropop”), they were composed for the mezzo soprano Elaine Mitchener, though the low-lying vocal lines seemed to make relatively little use of her extended vocal technique and skill as an improviser; as in so much of Davies’ music, though, the fragile surfaces seem to hide much more than they reveal.

Both Saltbox, an evocation of landscapes of the north Kent coast from 2005, and Grind Show, written two years later and inspired by a Goya painting, underpin moody ensemble writing with mysterious, threatening electronic sounds, while the piano piece. Loophole, played with just the right fierceness by Elizabeth Burley, turn Scarlatti sonatas into feisty two-part inventions. The concert ended with what is perhaps the archetypal Davies work to date, Neon, from 2004, in which pulse schemes influenced by Birtwistle are overlaid with the driving insistence of funk. As the Sinfonietta performance showed, it’s music that is entirely itself, with a raw intensity impossible to ignore.


Andrew Clements

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
London Sinfonietta review – the haunting charm of Mauricio Kagel
From vampy robotics to a ‘game’ between cellists, this vivid celebration of the late avant-garde composer embraced the remarkable range of his work

Andrew Clements

04, Feb, 2020 @4:14 PM

Article image
London Sinfonietta/George Benjamin review – austere first world war meditation
Benjamin conducts four new pieces with care and intensity but comes into his own with works of ritual mourning by Stravinsky and Messiaen

Tim Ashley

23, Jul, 2018 @10:30 AM

Article image
London Sinfonietta/Gourlay review – finely focused foray into microtonal music
Ligeti’s influential Ramifications rounded off a beautifully executed programme of works that followed in his pioneering wake

Tim Ashley

21, Aug, 2016 @12:03 PM

Article image
London Sinfonietta at 50 review – orchestra celebrates with Stravinsky and solo sax
Half a century of championing contemporary music saw the Sinfonietta boosted in size in an ambitious programme that didn’t always cohere

Andrew Clements

25, Jan, 2018 @2:52 PM

London Sinfonietta/Baker LSO, St Luke's, London

St Luke's, London

Andrew Clements

11, May, 2007 @10:47 PM

Article image
London Sinfonietta/Paterson review – new music crammed with striking ideas
The Sinfonietta blended rigour with expressive depth in Hans Abrahamsen’s Schnee, plus gave striking premieres of works by Morgan Hayes and Simon Holt

Andrew Clements

07, Dec, 2016 @2:41 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
The Gender Agenda review – Venables' feeble musical gameshow parody
Composer Philip Venables’ fatally unfunny work for the London Sinfonietta needs radical reworking

Andrew Clements

15, Apr, 2018 @12:05 PM

Article image
Sinfonietta/Fischer review – mystery and awe, from Debussy to Harvey
Using Debussy’s Prélude à l’Après-Midi d’un Faune as a starting point, composers from Varèse to Saariaho furthered its sonority and spectralism

Tim Ashley

23, Jan, 2020 @3:38 PM