4 May 2015
Bach's universe was the opening gala concert for CIMF 2015. It's not the first concert, residing as it is after the second concert of a series of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas. I found this a hugely refreshing outing. We all love JS - he's central to our conception of the Western musical canon these days and everyone's fave - but this intermingling of his pieces with contemporary works was a revelation. The Bach was a full violin partita (Partita no2 D minor BWV1004; not sure this was expected, but it was welcomed), a trio sonata variously with harpsichord and baroque organ (Trio sonata G major BWV530) and a cantata (Jauchzet Gott BWV51). Intermingled in the program, although tellingly performed from a second stage at the other end of the longish hall, were Steve Reich Vermont Counterpoint, Alister Spence Time is time enough and Kate Moore The Dam (a Beaver Blaze commission). I loved the Bach, of course. I especially noted Rebecca Chan, who did a great job on the lengthy and virtuosic violin partita from a spot in the middle of the hall. The hall was unexpectedly laid out in two long but shallow rows of seating facing each other with a stage at each end, to right and left of the seated audience. Strange, but it worked, allowing quick transitions, varied instrumentation and a differing and more democratic experience of placement. We were right up against the southerly stage, so the Bach was distant and echoey. Interesting. Also noted, if distant, were Rosanne's Hunt's baroque cello and Alex Oomens' apt soprano and the ringing pleasure of Leanne Sullivan's occasional baroque trumpet.
It helps that we were close by, but on the night I was more excited by the contemporary music and this was a reminder to me after lots of recent, relatively earlier music. Contemporary is harder to sell so less common but when it's as good as this, it's exciting and vibrant and intimately expressive of our era (not that Bach and Beethoven have nothing to tell us; good is good, after all). The three works were that. Firstly, Stave Reich Vermont Counterpoint played brilliantly by Claire Edwards. She really was a star of my experience of this concert. Then a duo with Claire and Amy Dickson playing a work by Alister Spence on gongs and marimba and a busy and not overly jazz-influenced soprano sax. Then a finale with Kate Moore's The Dam which was commissioned for this festival. This was played by two ensembles, baroque and contemporary, one at each of the hall, led by Roland Peelman in the centre and Kate at the contemporary end. This was somewhere around minimalism, richly varying rhythms and time signatures beating in and out, regularity amongst change, conversations between eras and tones and colours and localised with William Barton's didj. I'm looking forward to a peek at the score, but suffice to say, lots of mutating counting required. Our experience was influenced by placement, but that's all part of it and it fits. But it's all relative and that's Einstein and the festival's theme.
JS Bach, Kate Moore, Alister Spence and Steve Reich were performed at the CIMF Gala concert entitled Bach's universe. At the south end were Kate Moore (conductor, composer), William Barton (didgeridoo), Amy Dickson (alto, soprano sax), Claire Edwards (vibes and other percussion), Pete Harden (baritone guitar) and ??? (piano). In the middle were Rebecca Chan (vioin) and Roland Peelman (conductor). At the north end was the Festival Bach Ensemble comprising Alex Oomens (soprano), Leanne Sullivan (trumpet), Matt Greco (violin, director), Annie Gard (violin), Heather Lloyd (viola), Rosanne Hunt (cello) and Anthony Abouhamad (harpsichord, baroque organ, director).