Second stage and orchestra – Sounding glorious at Holland Park tonight
A lovely review for the show!
Concert at the Dublin Dance Festival: warm, funny, respectful and irreverent
Colin Dunne proves himself more than up to the challenge of the ‘undanceable’ Tommy Potts
Colin Dunne in Concert at the Project Arts Centre, Dublin. Photograph: Maurice Gunning
Colin Dunne in Concert at the Project Arts Centre, Dublin.
about 5 hours ago
Project Arts Centre, Dublin
Tommy Potts’ solo fiddle playing was highly idiosyncratic, and the irregular phrasing and wayward pulse in his album The Liffey Banks earned it notoriety: musicians were in thrall to its singular genius, dancers dismayed that it was undanceable.
Dancer Colin Dunne has accepted this challenge, not to earn a badge of honour like those reserved for ballet choreographers tackling Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps, but to gain a fuller understanding of his own craft. Concert isn’t a pitched battle of dancer versus musician, rather a dialogue with Potts as artist to artist.
The conversation is warm, funny, respectful and at times irreverent.
Eschewing the theatre’s sound system, the music comes from two moveable speakers onstage, a turntable and a tape recorder, creating an intimate dialogue. Dunne’s dancing is similarly muted, even in hard shoes, eyes cast downwards in concentration as he listens intently and reacts to microscopic changes in rhythm. As well an LP of The Liffey Banks, a soundscore has been created by Mel Mercier that adds texture to the solo violin.
Concert opens with Dunne in sneakers stepping from one foot to the other, simply outlining his own credo on rhythm and steps and how every dance comes from the simple act of stepping. He deftly switches between normal steps and stylised dance steps, playing with expectations. Later seated at a piano, he plays the hornpipe Blackbird, then tries to mimic Pott’s performance – an illustrative, but impossible task.
As Concert finishes, Dunne records looping patterns of foot taps, leg swings, violin notes and piano chords. Together they build into a rich tapestry, but each individual gesture seems like a message into the spiritual world that Potts now inhabits.
Ultimately both are kindred spirits, in love with their artforms but dismissive of the rules. A recorded interview with Potts is spliced to set up a witty real-time conversation with Dunne. However artificial, it suggests the admiration and respect would have been reciprocal.
Concert runs until Saturday May 20th. See dublindancefestival.ie
Here with Colin Dunne to open his new show…
Another lovely review from Bachtrack.co.uk
Adventurous programming – or “curation” to employ the overused term from this concert’s publicity – is welcome, particularly if it refreshes fusty routine. Instead of the usual conductor entrance to polite applause, the Royal Festival Hall was suddenly plunged into darkness last night, from which a spotlight picked out Pierre-Laurent Aimard, buried in the depths of the Philharmonia’s ranks, to perform Pierre Boulez’s Notations IV for solo piano. When blue lighting then flooded the stage, Esa-Pekka Salonen was already in place to continue without pause.
The entire first half juxtaposed Boulez and Debussy in a continuous flow of music, enhancing the contrasts between the two composers. Bathed in a golden halo of dawn, the smudgy haze of Debussy’s Gigues emerged from the glaring sunburst of the orchestral Notations IV. It was akin to pairing Monet with Jackson Pollock.
Aimard’s contributions were exquisitely brief, each of the three piano Notations complying to Boulez’s pre-determined 12 bars in length. No. VII, nestled in the middle of the first half sequence, was tenderly caressed before giving way to the nocturnal rumblings of its orchestral counterpart, beneath shimmering cool blue moonbeams in Colin Grenfell’s restless lighting designs.
By featuring only two of Debussy’s Images – Gigues and Rondes de printemps – we were denied the most boisterous of the triptych, Ibéria, with its fiesta of Spanish colour. Gigues, with its hints of the Northumbrian folksong The Keel Row, was shrouded in mists. Debussy wasn’t terribly well served in the second half either, the ubiquitous La Mer preceded by a rarity, the Fantaisie for piano and orchestra, providing Aimard much more air time. It’s a curious work, far from what we might think of as typical Debussy, composed in 1889-90, shortly after his two year stay in Rome. There’s something of César Franck in the Fantaisie, the piano not conforming to the adversarial role of a concerto. Its languorous middle movement nudged us towards the world of Debussy’s Faune, perhaps, but the sudden romantic outbursts aren’t characteristic of the composer at all. Aimard, glued to the score throughout, brought a delicate light touch to the work, although the upper registers of the piano sounded dangerously brittle.
Boulez was a very fine Debussy conductor and Salonen’s Debussy is very much in Le Maître’s mould, full of pinpoint detail and lucid articulation. Visually, Salonen’s conducting of the two composers was very different: jagged, angular stabs for Boulez; a much more fluid beat, stemming from the shoulders, for Debussy. I’m not sure Boulez would have employed such dramatic ritardandos in La Mer though. Salonen pulled the tempi in all sorts of directions here, which certainly made for a dramatic “Dialogue between the wind and the sea” where salty waves spattered their spume in lively fashion, mostly via Keith Bragg’s fierce piccolo. Grenfell’s lighting built to a full midday glare, matching the Philharmonia for brightness. The first movement had been full of anti-Impressionist fine detail, the lovely passage for cellos rightly drawing a beatific smile from the conductor. “Play of Waves” had the clockwork precision of a tinkling music box, very contained, intimately sharing the sea’s secrets.
A lovely review from the Telegraph of the concert I lit last night at the South Bank Centre.. A privilege to work with Esa-Pekka Salonen..
The Boulez score was also one of the biggest I’ve seen!
Philharmonia Orchestra, Royal Festival Hall ★★★★★
Hearing a composer’s first and second thoughts side by side can be a fascinating and moving experience. Especially when the composer is Pierre Boulez, grand master of French modernism, and the most obsessive reviser in musical history.
The first thoughts on display here were Boulez’s tiny piano pieces from 1945, entitled Notations. As the lights fell in the Festival Hall, a spotlight picked out a grand piano right at the back of the platform, with the spare, intense form of pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard hunched over it. He flung out the obsessive repeating pattern of the Fourth Notation with terrific coiled energy, at which point the lights rose, to reveal more than a hundred players of the Philharmonia Orchestra seated on the platform. With barely a pause for breath, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen launched them into the corresponding orchestral Notation Boulez teased from that gnomic piano piece, more than 30 years later.
This was the opening gambit in the third of Aimard’s and Salonen’s concert series “Inspirations”, which puts modernist masterpieces together in intriguing ways. On the face of it, they seem very different, the brusque energy of the blonde Finn contrasted with the dark intensity of the French pianist. But the affinities go deeper than the contrasts. As his performances of five of Boulez’s Notations proved, Aimard can summon a taut rhythmic energy, and Salonen showed a truly French sensitivity to orchestral colour, in his performances of the gorgeously ornate and sumptuous orchestral versions.
As if that weren’t fascination enough for one evening, the survey of Boulez was interrupted by glances back to the composer who influenced him perhaps more than any other: Claude Debussy. It was startling to hear the tangled weave of Notations IV dissolve without a pause into the dewy purity of Debussy’s Images, and it made vividly clear how much the later composer owed to the earlier one.
The second half of the concert tried a different gambit: comparing early and late Debussy. Aimard was the soloist in his rarely heard Fantasie for piano and orchestra, which is certainly no masterpiece, but in Aimard’s super-sensitive performance it almost seemed like one. Finally came Debussy’s La Mer. Salonen made the transitions linger deliciously in a way which could have seemed self-indulgent, had his overall command of the form not been so taut. In all it was a marvel. If only every orchestral concert were as imaginatively conceived and beautifully executed as this one. IH