by Rachel Beaumont

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Another good deal: Music by Xenakis and Reimann at the Royal Festival Hall

Music by Xenakis and Reimann
Nicholas Hodges and members of the Philharmonia Orchestra
Royal Festival Hall
5 March 2020
Southbank page

Xenakis, Evryali
Reimann, Piano Concerto no.2

Somehow the Philharmonia’s Music of Today programme and its handful of free concerts has until now passed me by. It seems a pretty good deal: interesting music, strong performers, free. The turnout was also pretty strong for a 6pm concert of relatively little known music, although we felt few in the grandness of the Royal Festival Hall.

Xenakis arouses strong passions in me but Evryali was unfamiliar – I clearly need to do more sofa research. The programme’s artistic director Unsuk Chin explained in a short introduction that the written music is specifically unplayable, which seems a nice way to acknowledge the necessity of interpretation in any written music. I don’t know yet how Hodges’s rendition compares to others', but on its own the density both of notes themselves and their directions of movement were thrilling. My only thought was whether this might be even more fun if you sat right up with your head almost in the piano – I wonder if the piece’s extravagance is a little tamed in the RFH, even with Hodges untiring effort.

Reimann is an acknowledged blind spot for me, but even so I am mightily surprised that this wonderful piece from 1972 is only now receiving its UK premiere. The piece's shape was a bit obscure, unlike in the Xenakis which even in its multiplicity has clearly defined proportions; but I attribute this obscurity more to my ignorance of Reimann than anything else. Instead my focus was predominantly on the charming variety of sound coaxed from the 19-part orchestra, and particularly the voice-leading between them. It’s all written with the utmost skill to create a seamlessly meshed web around the piano, ably directed by Roland Kluttig.

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