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The Rambler :: blog

Monday, October 03, 2005

New Music on a Shoestring: October 

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Regular readers will have noticed that I've been posting tips for new music concerts and gigs in London at the beginning of most months. Well, I've decided to refine this slightly (and attempt to be more regular about it at the same time) to focus on those concerts that are for people of more discerning wallets. There's plenty of publicity available in any case for the big showcase events, but less for the smaller venues and less-established ensembles. Not coincidentally, this is often where the most interesting stuff happens, and it is usually pretty light on the wallet too. I was thinking about starting something like this a couple of weeks ago in any case, but a recent post by Drew Mc Manus on orchestral ticket pricing gives a little more impetus.

The 'rules' for my posts will be pretty straightforward: standard (ie not concession) tickets must be available for £5 or less, and the programme must be predominantly music by living composers, or written in the last 40 years or so. Only performances of non-pop, 'serious', concert-hall music will be included. There's no decent term for this, but you all know the sort of stuff I mean. (This is no exclusionist diktat, rather a reflection of my own personal tastes and knowledge, as well as an attempt to keep a coherent focus.) The emphasis will inevitably drift towards London, but any UK concert might be included. Promoters, ensembles, venues, composers, etc, are all welcome to email me at the address top right, and if you meet the criteria I'll include your concert at the start of the relevant month.

OK, so October, then.

Well, the big contemporary music event this month in London is the Xenakis fest at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Most of this is full-price, large-scale orchestral bizness, but in the manner of most weekend festivals there are some cheap treats to be found. And on Sunday evening after the main concert of the day, Sound Intermedia will be presenting the Greek composer's 1978 tape masterpiece Le legende d'Eer. £5 flat rate.

Again at the QEH, the Philharmonia Orchestra's Music of Today series is, frankly, a jewel - about half a dozen short concerts in the early evening, each focusing on a single composer or movement, and they're all free. There can't be many better ways to break up the post-work trudge home. Incredibly (or not) very few Londoners bother to take advantage of these things, so you can also end up with a row of normally expensive seats all to yourself, with no one engaging in elbow wars or casting a glance at your notebook. For moody, reclusive, wannabe-subversive new music nerds like myself there actually isn't anything better than this. The 2005-06 series starts this Thursday with two works (Jubilus and Song offerings) by Jonathan Harvey.

At the Barbican on the 24th, the Guildhall Symphonic Wind Ensemble (with John Harle and Richard Benjafield as soloists) are performing works by Michael Tippett (Mosaic), David Kechley (Restless Birds Before the Dark Moon), Adam Gorb (Elements) and Magnus Lindberg (Gran Duo), as well as two new works by Harrison Birtwistle and Michael Berkeley. Student band they may be, but the GSWE are probably one of the best in the country and they're backed up here by two outstanding soloists. And the programme is pretty attractive too. Again, yours for a fiver (or less than the price of a pint for concessions). I would be going, but Catherine Leonard, whose recording of Ian Wilson's from the Book of Longing I reviewed and greatly enjoyed a while back is playing the piece (plus some Messiaen, Beethoven and Fauré) at the Wigmore Hall the same night. Although it doesn't qualify as a shoestring concert this, it's also worth recommending - Leonard is a fine player, and her performance of the Wilson was, for my money, pretty much spot-on.

If you fancy something a bit more experimental, tomorrow evening is the 'Fundraising Gala Premiere Opening Music Night' of the Rational Rec at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club. This will be a monthly inter-art bash on the first Tuesday of each month. Again, it's only a fiver a throw, and the inagural event tomorrow (that's Tuesday 4th October) includes a bunch of stuff by Simon Bookish, Andrew Sparling, Kirsten Le Strange, Mark Knoop and Aloi.

Outside London, the biggest bargain event is the Royal Northern College of Music's series of Giya Kancheli concerts, details of which may be found towards the bottom of this page of listings. In five concerts over three days (24th, 25th and 26th), RNCM ensembles, the BBC Philharmonic, Ensemble 10/10, and others will play 10 Kancheli works interspersed with mostly contemporary works by British composers. Three of the concerts are £5 each; the other two (including the BBC Phil's performance of Symphonies nos.3 and 5) are free, although for this last a ticket is still required.

And finally, if you're in Bournemouth on the 29th, you might want to see the ensemble Kokoro perform at St Stephen's Church at 7.30: the programme includes Fitkin, McNeff, Hesketh, Boulez and Maw. Again, that's £5 to you.


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