THE most astonishing thing about the opening concert in Ilan Volkov and the BBC SSO’s two-day Tectonics festival was the number of people who turned out to see it.
Given the strange, uncompromising nature of the music, that says something about a hunger out there for hard core contemporary music.
The programme opened with one of the festival’s three major BBC commissions – David Fennessy’s Prologue (Silver are the tears of the moon). Its bold snatches of Verdi, corrupted by clatterings of percussion and shifting orchestral glissandi, a sense of the old giving way to the new, created an attention-grabbing start.
Then the whispering world of Morton Feldman, and a performance of his Cello and Orchestra, featuring soloist Anton Lukoszevieze, that was wholly absorbing in the mutating nuances it conjured up.
Alvin Lucier’s The Exploration of the House required the SSO to play snippets from Beethoven’s The Consecration of the House, which were recorded live, immediately played back, with a further live recording made of the playback, and the process repeated until the acoustical properties consumed the music, leaving a nebulous hum. It was interesting to a point, but went on too long.
Charles Ross’s The Ventriloquist asked more questions than it answered, the composer himself apparently shaping the filigree performance from a garden-style water feature on stage, before symbolically rolling a ball in the final moments to Volkov. Finally came another study in abject quietness from Frank Denyer, and the beautifully hushed translucence of The Colours of Jellyfish.