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CLASSICAL Sounds of the West, Ensemble 10/10/ The Cornerstone.

TO OPEN the new season of Ensemble 10/10 concerts with what conductor Clark Rundell called one of our "seminal composers" was a masterstroke.

Stravinsky's Octet for Wind Instruments influenced many composers through the 20th century, not least John Adams whose rip-roaring, immensely challenging Chamber Symphony closed the performance, given to a packed Cornerhouse, Liverpool's headquarters for contemporary music. In the Stravinsky, individual instruments are cruelly exposed, though this posed no threat to this ensemble. A spirited allegro led into a poised series of variations and a finale which felt full of fun.

James Wishart's, heavily influenced by the work of American Morton Feldman, is a slow, contemplative piece which, in this performance, left the listener feeling suspended in time. No such feeling in Louis Johnson's Manifestations, being heard for the first time in its revised version.

After a false start, it turned into an intense, even slightly impenetrable presentation of a series of ideas. At times dramatic, at others almost violent, this was - for the listener - perhaps the most challenging work in the programme.

Excerpts from Lou Harrison's ballet score, Solstice, were somewhat unnerving since, settling into something familiar, the score jolts onto a whole new track. The Balinese influence is very evident, along with some fine moments for solo flute and trumpet, which brought the work to a searing conclusion.

The Adams piece was described by Rundell as a "workout of Olympian standards" for the performers. The thought of combining the influence of Stravinsky and Schoenberg with music from 1950s American cartoons is as incredible - and yet it works. The insistent energy of the opening Mongrel Airs and the mesmeric, repetitive patterns of Aria with Walking Bass led into a fantastically energetic Roadrunner finale, in which violinist Thelma Handy - along with colleagues - acquitted themselves with some brilliance.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 22, 2009
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