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Martin Georgiev – The Mirror

Human – Clarissa Miller

Death – Marcin Gesla

Life – Frederick Long


World Premiere Concert Performance


Azalea Ensemble/Jessica Cottis

Royal Academy of Music – 10 June 2009



A lone human being is trapped in a dark labyrinth – fear is the emotion uppermost in her mind, as she attempts to hide from the two menacing figures that emerge.  Death “I am nothing and it is nothing that you fear” and Life “I am everywhere, and I am everything…you fear me most”.  The stage directions indicate that the music unfolds and spreads like a fog in the labyrinth and Georgiev achieved this most successfully and eerily with a subtle combination of strings and wind instruments.


The confrontation that ensues between Death and Life is something of a battle of the titans, basso profundo against bass, with percussion and the heavy end of the brass section of the orchestra joining in, all at full volume.   Had this been a staged production, with the orchestra in the pit, the balance between voice and instruments would have been more effective, but it still proved a very exciting episode, with the audience poised to discover the outcome.


In fact the dual ends in stalemate leaving the Human once again alone and afraid “Nothing and all things are terror” finally to find herself confronted by her own reflection – the heart of the labyrinth is a mirror.  Again, the orchestration contained a harmonic depiction of enveloping mystery.


The whole piece, lasting a little less than an hour, was a cleverly thought out and well executed entertainment.  Marike van Aerde’s intelligent libretto, with its references to Dante and T S Eliot, is the lynchpin.  The composer, Martin Georgiev, drawing both on the medieval Bulgarian-orthodox modality of his native land and the principles psychoacoustics, has put together a very effective score.


The three singers were superb.  Clarissa Miller coped well with the stratospheric sopranos registers that seem to be a compulsory part of modern music, and Marcin Gesla and Frederick Long were evenly matched in their ability to colour their voices with menace whilst riding the comparatively heavy orchestra.  To the great credit of all three, virtually every word of the text was clearly distinguishable (although the full libretto was included in the excellent programme).


There were number of switches of instrumentalists, no doubt influenced by the tube strike, nevertheless it sounded like a true ensemble and were ably conducted by Jessica Cottis.


Despite the aforementioned transport difficulties, the event had deservedly attracted a very sizeable audience who delivered their appreciative verdict.  Georgiev and van Aerde are currently working on two further operas and I look forward to their performance in due course.



Serena Fenwick