Review: Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, at the CBSO Centre, Birmingham

BCMG has been part of Birmingham’s music scene since 1987. As we all realise, we can’t stay in the present period for ever, however the question ‘What is music?’ has come to mind during these years.

Judith Weir’s ‘Musicians Wrestle Everywhere’ teased the mind with jolly quasi-jazz rhythms and odd syncopations. Unfortunately the dynamic was mostly a stolid mezzo-forte, hardly a joyous celebration as anticipated.

Sean Clancy’s world premier ‘Findetotenlieder’ initially highlighted fine disjointed questions and answers between cello and double bass, aided by totally clear direction from conductor Clement Power.

Soprano soloist Susan Narucki was bizarrely stretched in all vocal ranges, a fine voice somewhat wasted on this occasion, one felt.

Copious programme notes verging on the pretentious only led to irritation, confusion and gloom with constant references to death in ‘variable dustings of sound’.

Fine playing throughout however, from some of Birmingham’s top musicians.

Gerald Barry’s ‘Feldman’s Sixpenny Editions’ were dynamically loud, clichéd and tediously repetitive.

There are many occasions when the challenge for performers is more satisfying than that for a mere listener.

I suspect that this was the case during the interminable second half of ‘Four songs across the threshold’ by Gerard Grisey. Heavily into death, drear and long-windedness, one had to admire further solo efforts by soprano Narucki.

Screeching, squawking and for the most part totally incomprehensible, even with the ‘help’ of programme notes.

Copious percussion ‘toys’ were there in full force, but for the most part quiet, tedious and monotonous, with only an odd burst of excitement to stir us.