less is more, more or less

To Kings Place on Friday evening for a concert billed as 50 Years of Minimalism: Europeans & Experimentalists, featuring the sibling pianists Katia and Marielle Labèque, alongside musicians involved in Katia Labèque’s ‘contemporary rock band’. It turned out to be quite a varied programme, ranging from incredibly quiet and delicate pieces to the cacophonous. Now, there is a part of me that loves noise – whether it’s the industrial racket of early Einstürzende Neubauten, the shimmering crescendo of a thundersheet, or some other-worldly electronic fuzz; and I like the mild absurdity of an electric guitarist playing from a score on a music stand, while those audience members less enamoured of noise stick their fingers in their ears – but for me the highlight of Friday’s concert was the music of Howard Skempton. In the first half of the concert, Marielle played solo piano pieces from Skempton’s Images followed by Postlude – exquisite short pieces – the temptation is to call them fragments, but that makes them sound light and throwaway. They are small, perfect aural sculptures. In the second half, Matthew Barley performed Six Figures for solo cello, which I found intimate, beautiful and amazingly inventive. The Labèque sisters then joined Barley for a lively rendition of Skempton’s jaunty Resister, before the composer was beckoned up onto the stage for warm and well-deserved applause.
A special mention too for percussionist Raphaël Séguinier, who opened the evening with a mesmerising performance on solo gong (seriously!) of Postal Piece No. 10: Having Never Written a Note for Percussion by James Tenney, and later played Philip Glass‘s One Plus One (for ‘amplified table top’), drumming out the piece with his fingers on the closed lid of an upright piano. Both visually arresting and quite an ear-catcher. More minimalism, less contemporary rock, s’il vous plait.

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