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John premiered ten new works by leading British composer with the London Contemporary Music Group. The concert celebrated the 100th birthday of Elliott Carter, and includes John’s Little Concertino for Six.

Rian Evans, The Guardian, Tuesday 9 September 2008

As Elliott Carter approaches his 100th birthday – indefatigable and still composing – the celebrations of this extraordinary man continue. This concert by the London Contemporary Music Group set solo and chamber works by Carter alongside new pieces by 10 different composers in honour of the soon-to-be centenarian.

London Contemporary Music Group  Cardiff University   Carter’s wonderfully succinct Canons for 3, for violin, viola and piano, was interleaved with two pairs of works – Scrivo in Vento, Gra, and Rhapsodie Musings for flute, clarinet and violin solos respectively, and Esprit Rude/Esprit Doux for flute and clarinet. All showed Carter’s particular ability to capture the essence of an instrument and exploit it, while following his always sharply focused style. That these tiny gems were birthday gifts for other musicians (Gra for Lutosławski and the Esprits for Boulez) in testimony to friendship was a nice conceit, in turn complemented by the commissioning of 10 new pieces for Carter.

Writing in homage gave an otherwise disparate group of composers – Hyde, Hull, Cooke, Saxton, Bedford, Davies, Raymond, Foskett, Traill and Powers – one defining purpose. Using deliberately contrapuntal techniques with Bach’s Musical Offering as a starting point added more shared ground. The mix of arrangements of existing movements with pieces based on a facet of Bach worked remarkably well, as in the juxtaposition of Luke Bedford’s lucid Canon (Per Tonos) with Max Charles Davies’ sometimes surreal Rêve. Meanwhile, John Traill’s conducting of the 40-minute sequence, of which his own Little Concertino for Six was the penultimate work, with such strong interpretative instinct also added to its overall integrity.

Bach’s masterpiece was for Frederick the Great; this birthday offering was eminently fit for the musical king that is Carter.

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