Tribute to Maw at QEH

I was pleased I took the time to hear all three concerts presented as part of a tribute to the British composer Nicholas Maw who died in 2009. The works performed did a great deal to give a glimpse of his compositional voice – all passionately introduced by Andrew Burn who clearly has had a long relationship with Maw’s music. For much of the afternoon one was listening to the past; familiar textures from the 19th century and a preference for long lyrical melodic lines, as Burn said, is very much reminiscent of a musical era Maw respected. Maw’s sound is decidedly 20th century and what made his music so compelling for me was the timbres he created through careful manipulation of instrumental combinations. I could hear echoes of Britten in the wind writing and it was fantastic to hear the strings as an ensemble. The orchestral sound was used virtuosically in pacing the lush harmonic progressions that shaped much of the music performed. Particularly striking was the clarity of the text in his choral works, and the skilful balance of the orchestral and choral forces. The timbres captured in the chamber works performed by students from the Royal Academy of Music were equally compelling. I’m keen to explore some scores and see just how some of these textures are created. Above all I appreciated hearing a musical language that favoured cogent argument in its melodic and harmonic material. Definitely worth hearing more of; my review of the concerts will appear on http://www.icareifyoulisten.com shortly.

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