Saturday, November 05, 2011

What a great gig

I went to St Georges yesterday evening to see a performance of Tubular Bells by the Charles Hazelwood All Stars. It turned out to be cunning marketing. Yes, there was a performance of Tubular Bells, but it was preceded by three other pieces, Terry Riley's "A Rainbow in Curved Air", Steve Reich's "Four Organs", and "Harp Phase", an interpretation of Reich's "Piano Phase" played on harp. Despite an interest in avante garde music in my youth, I'd missed out on the minimalists, so these pieces were new to me.

The first piece performed was "A Rainbow in Curved Air". Absolutely stunning. A remarkable piece and an outstanding performance. The music was not unfamiliar; (I now know) the work has been so influential that there was no shock in hearing it. There was shock and awe in the performance though - the shock realisation that a piece like this, conceived of by one man in the studio, could be performed live by flesh-and-blood musicians, and the awesome skill and discipline of the musicians.

The second piece was "Four Organs". It seems this has a reputation as being "difficult"; it seemed just fine to me. Again a stunning live performance by musicians who really seemed to enjoy the challenge.

"Harp Phase" was interesting rather than moving. An experiment rather than a musical piece.

And then "Tubular Bells". It had been a long time since I'd listened to this and the performance made me realise why. Good in parts, very prog (in the worst sense of the word) in others. However, hearing the piece after the other three, put it into a context that I hadn't known about. And that the theme that runs through the piece is rather wonderful.

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