Gis review: BBC SSO: John Zorn at 60 City Halls, Glasgow
BBC SSO: John Zorn at 60
City Halls, Glasgow
In a musical portrait celebrating his 60th birthday, Ilan Volkov conducted a series of orchestral works that mark Zorn out as an artist of craftsmanship, perspicacity and daring originality.
Zorn’s influences range from Ives and Cage, to jazz, rock, klezmer and punk. Yet the resulting synthesis is anything but scatterbrain or derivative, and – as witnessed in the very opening bars of his Orchestral Variations – is grippingly individual.
As ever, Volkov’s skill in getting to the nub of such difficult music did the trick. That opening work ignited like a blistering firework, its highly contrasted dramatic episodes knitted together in fitful narrative, at times cartoonesque, even down to the percussive use of garden shears and rustled newspaper.
No lack of virtuosity either in the acrobatic vocalisations that dominated the monodrama La Machine de l’Être, featuring the astonishingly versatile coloratura voice of Alison Bell, and music that was riotously refreshing right up to the final ear-splitting scream.
The Scottish Symphony Orchestra was terrific throughout, not least in the world premiere of Suppôts et Supplications, another energetically directional work with beauty bursting out of its madcap extremes.
After the strangely Arvo Pärt-like Kol Nidre for strings, pianist Stephen Drury and choristers from St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, joined the SSO in the funky, stylistic stew that is Aporias – a Requia for Piano and Orchestra.
Refreshing or what.