June 1999


Hoxton Hall

New Music Days

Since the demise of Pierre AudiÕs Almeida Festival thereÕs been a creeping consensus in LondonÕs contemporary music scene. It could be summed up as Ôanything goes - as long as itÕs not too challengingÕ. ItÕs not that the difficult and the experimental have literally vanished - rather that theyÕre squeezed in the cracks between the minimalists and their poppy of romantic offshoots, and soft-edged, new-Age syntheses full of a vaguely Eastern promise. So itÕs entirely fitting that the New Music Days in Hoxton Hall should kick off on July 2 with Vinko Globokar, the composer/trombonist whoÕs ploughed his own modernist furrow in serene disregard for fashion for the past thirty years.

The same day thereÕs an even more vehemently unfashionable event - a performance in one concert of Kurt SchwitterÕs extraordinary sound-poem Ur-sonata, and Japan, one of StockhausenÕs ÔintuitiveÕ pieces. These concerts will remind us of something the anti-modernists havenÕt noticed; namely that it can be fun, even funny. And it can have a graceful wit, as Bruno MadernaÕs marvellous Serenata per Un Satellite proves - thatÕs being played the next day. Other major post-war figures whoÕve somehow never made it in Britain will be featured - Castiglione on July 11, Sciarrino on July 9.

All this might make the Hoxton New Music Days sound like an exercise in nostalgia, conducted in a building redolent of past glories (Hoxton Hall is an early Victorian temperance hall that later became a Music Hall). But artistic director John Woolrich is a far too shrewd a programmer to fall into that trap. In fact the New Music Days are as much a showcase of new talent as a tribute to the vanishing experimental exuberance of the 60s. Works by ten composers under 30 will be performed during the 10 day event; six of them will be created in a one day workshop led by Peter Wiegold on July 3rd, the others will be premi�red the following day. Nor is there that sense you sometimes get in new music festivals of a perverse, rather self-defeating emphasis on the obscure and neglected - indeed Woolrich has been careful to join hands with names that the non new-music buff (and the PR people) might recognise. The London Sinfonietta (well, part of it anyway) appears on July 3rd; thereÕs a Thomas Ad�s portrait on July 11th. Stravinsky, Nyman, Birtwistle, Ligeti, Andriessen and Madness all make brief appearances.

And for those who find all the musical names unfamiliar, Anish KapoorÕs will bring a sudden jolt of recognition; heÕs one of several artists whoÕve created new works in response to a musical event. ItÕs a programme as rich in strategic cunning as in idealism - letÕs hope the public rises to its challenge. Ivan Hewett Hoxton New Music Days (2-11 July 1999) is presented in association with Almeida Opera. Full details on 0171 359 4404

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Event listings for this month


Previous articles:

May 1999
Bath International Music Festival is 50.

April 1999
Who is Georges Aperghis?

March 1999
On frost, birth and death

February 1999
Keeping busy...

January 1999
Now that's what I call contemporary!

December 1998
Forty years of madness?

November 1998
To plug in or not to plug in?

October 1998
No, honestly it is a cello

September 1998
Composing for film

July/August 1998
New music on old instruments

June 1998
Blue sheep of record companies

May 1998
spnm looks to the future

April 1998
New Music 98 in Manchester