Vic Hoyland

Contemporary Art Show

Hey Presto!

Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post, 19th October 2009

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group conducted by Diego Masson, CBSO Centre

Even after the CBSO/Mariinsky's Prokofiev/Berlioz extragavanza. Birmingham's week of mega-music still wasn't over when Birmingham Contemporary Music Group presented a blockbuster of a Friday evening to launch its latest season.

Several CBSO stalwarts were deeply involved, still fresh from the la-bours of that massive enterprise at Symphony Hall (including Peter Harris, the hard-working but spectacularly calm platform manager) for this BCMG celebration which attracted an overflowing audience of all ages to a concert which included no fewer than three premieres from the famous 'Sound Investment' commissioning scheme.

A taster mini-concert featured works by Matthew Sergeant, last season's BCMG apprentice composer-in-residence. Two were premieres featuring oboist Melinda Maxwell, Richard Baker conducting, sandwiching a deft little cello piece with Elaine Ackers. Diego Masson, his experienced baton encompassing a huge variety of styles, took over for the main offering, where the only two non-premieres came from Franco Donatoni, his Cloches beginning promisingly with fleeting, spiky motifs from a pair of pianists and keyed percussionists, and Bruno Maderna.

Maderna's terse Oboe Concerto no.1 builds on the characters in turn of oboe d'amore, conventional oboe, and eventually cor anglais, and Nicholas Daniel, the soloist, displayed a remarkable capacity to enter the elusive drama of the music.

Parts of this concerto are quoted in Vic Hoyland's Hey Presto!, a gripping discourse between the Commedia dell'Arte characters Pierrot, Columbine and Harlequin, represented by concertante flute, oboe and clari-net... It teems with drama.

The other premieres were Simon Holt's fabulously-imagined Capriccio Spettrale and Richard Causton's Chamber Symphony.

Rating: 4/5