Classical and Opera Reviews

Blank Canvas @ Kings Place, London

11 January 2010


An eclectic evening and a mix good and very good musicianship made this concert at Kings Place more than a novelty. With performances from members of the London Sinfonietta there was virtuosity in abundance. Will Dutta is attempting to drag classical music to a new audience, this has been done countless times through the years, and usually comes across and patronising or gimmicky.

The reason it works here is because the elements fused are shamelessly diverse and are of an extremely high quality. The audience for this concert was young, but not immature; fashionable, but not narcissistic. Trying to create a less static atmosphere than a traditional classical concert environment Dutta suggested that people were free to come and go as they pleased, but obviously you can’t force people to relax, and thankfully most were happy to stay seated.

The music throughout was electro-acoustic; a blend of amplified acoustic instruments and electronics. The styles drifted from minimalist simplicity through to film score ambience, general modernist dissonance and full-on dance music. Each performer played a handful of works by different composers, but weren’t applauded until the end of the collection, perhaps a bit of an unwelcome development for some of the composers.

Oliver Coates’ performance of Larry Groves’ Vermillion Border and Anna Meredith’s Lylat (both for cello and electronics) displayed Coates’ fearless rough physicality and an intuitive approach to electro acoustic composition. There followed a totally compelling display of virtuosity, perfectly dovetailed with synthetic sounds in Will Gregory’s Interference, played by saxophonist Simon Haram, in which jarring dissonance was happily married to more narrative, melodic elements.

In the company of players from the London Sinfonietta Will Dutta himself is not an astonishing performer, though he plays the piano perfectly well; far more arresting (and possibly the highlight of the night) was a partially improvised electronic performance from Jon Hopkins, hopping from dizzy, furious electronic beats and glitches to heartfelt, simple piano morsels.

It’s important to view this event as a work in progress; there were patchy elements, but the overall calibre of music (and occasionally stunning visuals) as well as the commitment of the performers made this a real hit.



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