Classical music and opera - including contemporary forms - from London and beyond.
That a musical should have a message is rare these days. That it should have several – about standing up for yourself, intelligence and the fallibility of adults – is nothing short of astonishing. Matilda never patronises its audience, nor its young performers.
In truth, ‘Nonclassical Club Night’ might have been a misnomer – ‘Classical Non-Club Night’ would probably have been a more technically accurate description. This isn’t to say, though, that it was a completely standard classical recital – and nor is it to say that the changes of format and tone which it adopted weren’t incredibly beneficial.
There were moments during these long pieces when I did wish the ICA had some more comfortable chairs. But to describe any of the Wandelweiser repertoire as boring would be – to push Cage a little further – unimaginative. There are very conspicuously more questions than answers in all of this music, but I struggle to see what’s wrong with that. Wandelweiser are radically unpatronising to their audience.
Vivid scattergun readings by Sinclair and Moore, whose striking first-person narrative was a moving insight into the tragedy of the story, compellingly transported the audience to Clare’s countryside. What the ensuing witch-hanging-blackface-jig-metal-pounding lacked in consistency or subtlety, it made up for in genuine lunacy.
The line ‘What did you expect: the Spanish Inquisition?’ is little more flippant than much of the original text by Da Ponte, who, in adapting his text from the play by Beaumarchais, deliberately expunged all references to politics. The Marriage of Figaro is absolutely not a commentary on the banking crisis, and is all the better for it.
Why have the subsidised orchestras failed to commission new music that entertains as well as challenges? Why have they done nothing to nurture a single living composer for whom the public might learn to care? Given less generous funding, the Arts Council’s dependents would have been forced to find at least one composer every decade with audience appeal.
A picture emerged of a composer who clearly cares far more about the brilliant sonic effect of his music than about tiffs within the avant-garde or abstruse questions of technique. Every work we heard unfolded a strange, imagined shape in the air, leaving a trace which sat in some unknown relationship to logic.
Purcell’s music in particular stands out from its contemporaries and even later composers in its exuberant, life-affirming quality, its assuredness in handling mood, from unabated joy to harrowed emotional longing and despair.
Overall though, it is the texture of Weinberg’s music that’s most arresting, the loose tonality and regular use of drums and bells, the often bare and brittle melodies and wide open bits of chord, odd bits of jazz and tugging dissonances. Musically, it is at once easy to listen to but difficult to get lost in, giving way to a state of sort of resigned semi-alertness.
The commitment of Burstein and Edwards to their piece is never in doubt, and good for them. Furthermore, the creators’ zealousness has attracted the support of a hugely talented young theatre company. It’s just a pity that this company’s faith hasn’t been better rewarded.
In the discussion which followed the concert, it was refreshing to hear Philip Thomas and Anton Lukoszevieze (the founder of Apartment House, as well as its cellist) strongly defend Cage as a composer, not just an ideas man, as he is sometimes viewed.
Sure, he flies about a lot but the strings are always on display. Ariel’s songs are delivered in a strange falsetto and the effect is not spooky but embarrassing. It is a bit like watching a kitten sing.
As Johnny surveys the mess he has created, he comments with characteristic understatement, ‘This is getting awkward.’ It is when the show undermines the epic scale of Mozart’s piece that it actually feels strongest. Other undercutting works less well. So, as Blake merges in his R&B and dubstep beats, the cast is left to valiantly fly Mozart’s flag above this stream of sound.
McLaren spent a month singing instead of speaking, just as they do in Doris Day musicals, recording every encounter on his trusty lapel microphone. That decision makes him a social pariah: people stare at him or walk away, unable to make head nor tail of him.
Either we appreciate the songs or we ridicule the songstress. Better taken as slight musical musings with a hefty dollop of whimsy, The Caroline Carter Show is more showcase than show, never really adding up to a satisfying whole.