For nearly two decades the Thallein Ensemble has been an important feature of Birmingham Conservatoire’s concert activity.
Student-led, and naturally changing in membership as the years turn over, this versatile group explores a challenging range of contemporary music, performing under a variety of conductors, not all of them professionals. Daniele Rosina, at the helm for Friday’s latest concert, is an example of a gifted young director who has risen through the ranks and is now building a useful conducting career.
His programme was shrewdly constructed, all the works owing their stimulus to pre-existing material, and all composed by some of the greatest names of recent years.
Though two of Pierre Boulez’ Improvisations sur Mallarme were announced, we were in fact given only the first – but we did hear it twice.
Having performed for Boulez himself earlier this year, Rosina and the Ensemble, together with soprano Suzanna Purkis delivered the piece with authority, Rosina unfolding its glittering percussion textures with patience and clarity, tricky rhythmic detail meticulously rehearsed, Purkis’ poised delivery conveying a wonderfully lyrical sense of line through wide-spanning intervals.
The gentle, melancholy atmosphere of Thomas Ades’ The Origin of the Harp was beautifully evoked through Rosina’s instinctive sense of pace and colour. The tired old gong-in-the-water gag apart, Ades paints some uniquely imaginative sounds.
Two transcriptions of baroque composers, Ades transcribing Couperin, Luciano Berio Purcell, made a spirited interlude, almost like a scherzo within this quasi-symphony of a structure, before Berio’s Folk Songs made a spectacular finale.
Four talented vocal soloists took the place of the one dedicatee, but in her contributions, the amazingly versatile Purkis could almost have been the reincarnation of that virtuosic Cathy Berberian.