On the face of it a concert of eleven pieces by different composers might have suggested a musical hotchpotch, but not so here. The disparate elements of this BCMG package, devised by John Woolrich as part of the BBC’s Music Nation weekend, had been cleverly moulded into a meaningful whole, with tribute and homage as the common vein.
It was manifested in different ways. Oliver Knussen’s ‘Upon One Note’, a re-imagining of Purcell’s ‘Fantasy upon one Note’, and Gerald Barry’s ‘Aeneas and Dido’, with its vigorous, fractured folk-dancing Aeneas (steely-fingered pianist Malcolm Wilson at his most virtuosic), were clear examples of ironic hat-doffing, while Harrison Birtwistle’s ‘Double Hocket’ played both ‘retirement card’ and technical exercise – and at two minutes is probably the shortest piano trio in existence.
Others were more serious and reflective. The ‘Elegiac Chaconne’ of Colin Matthews, with its sustained lines and increasing tensions, gave an intriguing sense of purpose and form; and Philip Cashian’s ‘Caprichos’, extensively explored instrumental colours and textures to create a vivid sound world that grabbed one’s attention from the start and never let go.
And there was Woolrich’s own ‘In the Mirrors of Asleep’, an intensely personal exploration of the ‘fading of memory,’ full of quiet repose and poignant yearning.
The performers – Marie-Christine Zupancic (flute), Timothy Lines (clarinet), Alexandra Wood (violin), Ulrich Heinen (cello) and the indefatigable Malcolm Wilson – were quite stunningly brilliant at all times, and in Thomas Adès’s ‘Court Studies from ‘The Tempest’’ found their most rewarding vehicle – a cogently structured, searchingly melodic (rather than motivic) work which, as it gently subsided into nothingness, brought the evening to a genuinely romantic conclusion.