Paul Kilbey wrote the following for Bachtrack after the New Dots concert in May:
New Dots is a new initiative devoted to supporting emerging composers and performers in contemporary music, and this was its second-ever concert, at The Forge in Camden. Four world premières and one UK première – all New Dots commissions – plus a bonus performance of a recent piece by Mark Simpson were performed by members of the Atéa Wind Quintet and pianist Richard Uttley, in various instrumental combinations. They formed a pleasingly varied programme, all taking inspiration from a non-musical source, and yet each using this inspiration in profoundly different ways.
Piers Tattersall’s At a Distance of Less than a Yard… was a strong opening which stood out for the sharpness with which it characterised its three instrumental parts. Based around the plot of Alain Robbe-Grillet’s novel Jealousy, this trio tells the story of a man (piano) whose wife (clarinet) is having an affair (with a French horn). Perhaps understandably, the piano spends most of the piece going slightly nuts, and prompts a shrill response from the clarinet. The horn begins as an apparently rather confused bystander, but gradually unites with his lover, perhaps in opposition to the barrage of unreasonable outbursts coming from the piano. A slower coda sees the piano, feeling sorry for itself, slip into a rather self-indulgent light jazz style and reluctantly take on the role of accompanist to the two soloists. It’s easy for compositions like this to slip into unintelligibility, but Tattersall’s was full of wit and enjoyable to try and interpret.
When the world is puddle-wonderful for clarinet, flute and piano by Michael Cutting had a rather vaguer relationship to its inspirational source, E.E. Cummings’ poem in Just (from which the title is taken). There’s an air of quiet joy to the poem, which vividly depicts a spring day, and something of this carries through into Cutting’s contemplative, smiling, whispered composition. This provocative piece stood out for its softness, answering few questions but asking quite a lot.
An interlude to all the commissions came in the form of Mark Simpson’s slightly older piano work Barkham Fantasy, performed with breathtaking sensitivity by Richard Uttley. It’s a remarkable miniature, full of sinister textures, extremes of pitch and capricious changes of mood, reminiscent of Thomas Adès’ solo piano works but never distractingly so. This concert wasn’t meant to be about Mark Simpson, but this did come fairly close to stealing the show.
With Uttley, the Atéa Wind Quintet – Joshua Batty (flute), Philip Haworth (oboe), Anna Hashimoto (clarinet), Christopher Beagles (horn) and Ashley Myall (bassoon) – performed excellently in whatever combination was required, eloquently proving the benefits of close relationships between composers and performers. It’s wonderful that contemporary music has another champion in London – especially one so committed to commissioning – and New Dots has found an effective formula for presenting its new works. I look forward to seeing how it develops, and keeping up with the many new dots (and sounds) ahead.
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