The 21C Festival gave us new works by Ian Cusson and Stewart Goodyear yesterday afternoon. The first half of the programme was three works by Ian Cusson inspired by paintings by Hieronymus Bosch. The first was The Garden of Earthly Delights scored for piano and violin and played by Duo Concertante (Timothy Steeves and Nancy Dahn). Slow melodic, evocative sections are interspersed with livelier, somewhat ecstatic, sections using the upper ranges of the violin extensively. I think it effectively catches the various moods of Bosch’s complex triptych.
The Haywain; written for piano (Frédéric Lacrox) and oboe (Charles Hamann) was, I think, my favourite. Again it’s based around an alternation of slower melodic sections with something more up tempo. Here there was a definite suggestion of dance music rather like the way Stravinsky plays with folk melodies in say, L’histoire du soldat. It doesn’t sound like Stravinsky but it evokes the same sort of mood. The music certainly seems more rooted in the central, bucolic, panel of the triptych than the darker material of the flanking sections.
The Cure of Madness is scored for string trio and was played by the Trio Arkel (Marie Bérard, Rémi Pelletier and Winona Zelenka). This is altogether a darker piece. It’s also playing with the idea of madness with “something not quite right” about some of the writing. This time it’s based on four paintings with a movement for each. For example Concert in the Egg reflects the inability of the musicians depicted to get their heads around the music. In The Conjuror it’s all very slow and sparse as the charlatan magician gulls the crowd while his assistant picks their pockets and in The Cure of Madness we hear a repetitive knocking as the quack doctor trepans his patient.
All All three pieces were interesting and very much Ian Cusson. The were also beautifully played by all involved. The relevant paintings were projected above the stage which was a nice touch even if it was hard to really get the detail of such intricate works.
The second half featured the premiere of Stewart Goodyear’s Specially Mixed. This is a sort of classical/jazz/rock/calypso fusion work scored for keyboards (Goodyear), electric guitar (Michael Occhipinti), bass guitar (Roberto Occhipinti), drums (Larnell Lewis) and steel pan (Joy Lapps-Lewis). I enjoyed parts of this piece. I liked some of the minimalist keyboard sections (a mix of electric keyboard and piano) and the closer the ensemble work got to a Caribbean vibe the more I liked it. The more rock influenced sections just didn’t do it for me. I confess to a marked aversion to long, loud, distorted electric guitar solos and the second movement here was a particularly long and ear bleeding one. So, not my thing but that’s 21C. Not everyone is going to enjoy everything and Goodyear fans seemed happy enough with Specially Mixed. Those who had primarily come for the Cusson works were generally less impressed!