Friday, 24 June 2016

Psappha ensemble - Crumb / Carter / Reich in concert (2016)

This concert was broadcast as part of BBC Radio 3's 'New Year New Music' programme back in January.  I managed to grab a recording, as these shows disappear quickly from the online player, and I've been returning to it ever since - it's too good not to share.  The "artwork" here is by yours truly, after a hard (five minutes) graft on Photoshop.

Taking their name from a Xenakis percussion work, the Psappha contemporary music ensemble are based in Manchester, and so were performing on home turf here for a fantasic programme taking in three great American composers of the 20th century.  George Crumb's Quest (completed 1994), for percussion, harp, double bass, soprano sax and solo guitar opens the proceedings on an eerie, understated note, sounding like a guitarist trying to practice in a haunted orchestra pit.

The Crumb work is the definite highlight of the concert for me; Eliot Carter's Triple Duo (1982-3) that follows is a bit less accessible, with complex tangles of duo parts interweaving and sometimes clashing with each other, but it's still a fascinating listen and worth perservering with.  Lastly, Psappha turn in an energetic, swinging performance of Steve Reich's Double Sextet (2007) - doubled in this instance by the fact that it's being played live to a recording of itself. I don't always get as much out of latter-day Reich as I do from his 70s-80s work, but this is an enjoyable listen and closes the evening perfectly.

Crumb / Carter / Reich in concert, 7 January 2016.

Bonus Public Service Announcement
I always intended to keep this blog strictly apolitical...
I am proud to be Scottish today (and half Northern Irish by parentage).
Music still transcends all boundaries - any English or Welsh visitors to this blog, I bear you no ill will, and don't intend to enact any petty boycotts, either in the music I buy or music I post here.
I think we all know deep down though that the flag that united our four countries for so long will, within most of our lifetimes, only be seen in museums.  I say that with neither glee nor sorrow, just a simple statement of inevitability.
That is all - thanks


  1. Break-ups are painful, friends and family feel the loss. More music! Mehr Licht!

  2. Here in Canada, it's like we're dealing with our old geezer parent who seems to have gone Baja, and driven himself and his oxygen bottle off the road into the weeds. Meanwhile, our older brother who lives just south of here, well, we can't tell if he is going through some weird mid-life crisis and has discovered some hot fascist girlfriend or is simply sleeping with Fox News on all night long. We wuvs our da, but he seems to have gone bonkers or off his meds or something, and we wuvs our bro, but he's acting stupid as fuck. What's a kid to do?

    1. What's a kid to do?

      In the words of one of your greatest countrymen:

      The world is turning, I hope it don't turn away...

      and also:

      Keep on rockin' in the free world!

  3. I especially look forward to hearing the Crumb piece. I heard his "Voice Of The Whales" performed live sometime around 1978. At that time I was deeply into Stockhausen, Xenakis, Luigi Nono, Gyorgy Ligeti and the likes. I'd not heard of George Crumb but there was a Ligeti piece on the program so anything else was icing on the cake. I left after the concert remembering only the Crumb piece. I had no idea 'avant garde' music could sound both 'avant garde' and 'beautiful' at the same time! Or that 'beautiful' could be 'avant garde'! George Crumb has never failed to give me both. Many thanks.


    1. exactly the feeling I get from listening to Crumb! definitely going to keep exploring him further.