Contextualising new music
I was having a look at the new Music Map on NMC’s website, an imaginative visual way of placing a composer in his or her musical world, when I clicked on the play button of the site’s player and heard a clip of Richard Ayres’ NONcerto No 37b for Orchestra. I think what intrigued me most was the editorial comment “This colourful disc showcases Richard Ayres’s melodic, eclectic and theatrical style, which owes as much to the exuberance of Janacek as Kagel’s experiments”. Somehow the conjoining of those two names – both of whose music I adore – piqued my curiosity, and much to my delight the description was spot-on. There’s an exuberance, a craziness but also a real sense of an emotional rather than purely intellectual engagement that makes it such a terrific listen. (You can sample each of the movements of this work and its two couplings – for horn and trumpet – on the NMC site.) It’s also worth spending some time with the Music Map: I hope that as time goes by it develops and weaves in clips and comments from the composers themselves – but it’s a very neat little gadget.
And NMC is the brainchild of the composer Colin Matthews (whose place on the Music Map I’ve grabbed here – click on the image to enlarge it). I heard two more of his orchestrations of Debussy préludes last week as the opener for a quite magnificent concert with the LSO conducted by John Adams – Le vent dans la plaine and Ce qua vu le vent d’ouest were quite ravishing. Matthews takes these pieces a long way from their pianistic beginnings and re-paints them in some of the most gorgeous sounds you’re likely to encounter today. (The entire concert is being broadcast on Radio 3 this coming Wednesday, March 17, at 7pm. Do try and catch it then – or on the iPlayer – because John Adams’s new work <i>City Noir</i>, a 40-minute symphony in all but name, that sent me, and I suspect most of the audience, out into the night genuinely thrilled and invigorated by a brand-new composition – something that doesn’t happen too often these days!)