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Knussen ventured, Knussen gained; REVIEWS.

Byline: Christopher Morley

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group

CBSO Centre


Unusually for Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, only two composers featured in their programme on Sunday night, the Dane Poul Ruders and the Finn Magnus Lindberg.

Yet the music still brought a vivid range of aural experience from this pair of voices, both creators blessed with an acute sense of timbre and with the ability to convey it in score to these expert performers - and an expert director.

Oliver Knussen conducted, his expansive yet detailed beat drawing out so many subtleties from these wellconstructed scores. It is good to learn that he will be conducting the BCMG in a CD recording of Ruders later this month.

Two Lindberg miniatures began the evening, Bubo bubo and Counter Phrases, both filmic theatrical pieces brimming with brilliant aural definition, but somehow not delivering what one expects from contemporary music. No, don't ask me the obvious question, as I don't know the answer.

But his much more substantial Joy, joyous indeed, full of fragmentary gestures moving towards climaxes of Sibelian grandeur, and with expertly marshalled electronics along the way, made a far more effective impact, despite its weakly subsiding ending.

Ruders was present here to hear his Four Dances in One Movement, a pointillistic score of great refinement and with many-layered textures, and one which has the capacity to reflect backwards and forwards in time. Its effect was totally magical, and special praise must be given to contrabassist Julian Atkinson for his range of articulation, from well-phrased lyricism to pungent rhythmic underpinning.

Ruders' Nightshade was altogether more crepuscular, creeping slithy, Jabberwocky-like timbres knocking against keening high nocturnal utterances, and exploiting wonderful resonances from Mark O'Brien's spectacular contrabass clarinet and Margaret Cookhorn's eloquently expressive double-bassoon.


Oliver Knussen and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group in rehearsal at Adrian Boult Hall,
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Oct 7, 2008
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