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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Golijov-Watch, UK edition 

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Following up on my survey of British press reaction to Osvaldo Golijov's first major concert in the UK, here's a summary of what the British papers have been saying about his Pasión, performed at the Barbican last week.

The Times ran this preview, by Warwick Thompson, whose hyperbole ("Whether baying for Christ’s blood or lamenting his passing, whether punching the air in anger or swaying gently, [the Schola Cantorum's] superb technique is matched by a dramatic commitment that will knock you sideways. Prepare yourself for a very passionate Pasión indeed") was not reflected in Richard Morrison's subsequent review, in which he gave the work three stars:
Where the piece fell down was in the basic quality of the inspiration. On this evidence Golijov is a deft organiser of dance-hall pastiche on an elevated, histrionic scale, but no great originator. The shadow of Steve Reich’s minimalism hangs over the figuration. And a lot of solos, both for voices and brass, leave no trace on the memory. In fairness, though, I should report that Pasión was greeted by cheers. Clearly, others find Golijov’s brand of samba spirituality more convincing than I do.
David Murray in the Financial Times was no more convinced: he liked it OK; which is to say that he only liked it OK:
Golijov's modest idiom, middlebrow and unadventurous, has its own appealing character. Not only does it go down easily, but it also sounds consistent and honestly felt, as well as expertly scored on all its various scales. Those who want higher things can safely ignore it; those who want just a bit of variety, and not too much more, should be disarmed by the occasional Golijov curve-ball amid these insistently cheerful goings- on. Maria Guinand conducted them all with keen commitment. I wouldn't go again, but I enjoyed it.
Andrew Clements in the Guardian was not as generous:
If a European composer had perpetrated such an act of musical miscegenation, one suspects, they would have been derided for their presumption. Yet even this piece might have been more justifiable had it gained from this plurality of styles.
Overall - two and two-thirds stars. 'Must try harder' is the message from London.

Update: Anna Picard's review for the Independent appeared over the weekend, but the picture for Goliljov remains the same - too much faithful curatorship, not enough composing.

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