The most exciting of Birmingham Contemporary Music Group’s presentations are those when one emerges elated after hearing works which have gained a rightful place in the repertoire and new ones which certainly deserve to.
And this was certainly the case in Saturday’s opening concert of BCMG’s new season, in which two rewarding premieres rubbed shoulders with established “classics”.
A Sound Investment co-commission with organisations on both sides of the Atlantic, Param Vir’s Raga Fields proved compelling and fascinating, in effect a concerto for sarod (it looks like an electric guitar, but sounds like nirvana -- and I don’t mean the rock band) and chamber ensemble.
These Three Spaces allow the soloist, Soumik Datta with his happy, serene presence, to improvise on ragas to forge a timeless interaction with western instruments and textures. The sound-relationships created are sometimes almost extra-terrestial, harp and celeste prominent collaborators, but we also dig firmly into mainstream territory with the finale’s evocation (perhaps unaware) of Tippett, Petrushka, and the orgiastic Rite of Spring.
The other premiere was the first UK professional performance of in situ by Edmund Finnis, its five movements each taking music by composers from the distant past (Rameau the most recent) and reshaping the material into pithy little new constructions. Elegant, shapely, cool in its timbres, and with no real instrumentation issues, the piece deserves to slip into any imaginative programme.
And the “classics”? Webern’s (is he really a contemporary composer?) Concerto, finely pointed under conductor Nicholas Collon, Colin Matthews’ Hidden Variables, a BCMG warhorse since its premiere in 1989, and which has risen in my estimation with every hearing, and Ligeti’s Piano Concerto.
By this time at the end of a generous programme it was a case of too much, too late, but the impressions which remained from the Ligeti were of soloist Tom Poster’s muscular, even balletic, performance, and the sheer zeal of the remarkable BCMG players.