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Crumb & Schnittke

Schnittke: ‘Schall und Hall’ (with Christopher Augustine, trombone & Rebecca Wiles (organ/electric keyboard)

Crumb: Voice of the Whale [Vox Balanae] (with Alys Hewer, electric flute, Alex Eichenberger, electric cello & Rebecca Wiles, amplified piano)

Goldsmiths PureGold Festival, New Cross, London: Lunchtime Concert 21 May 2009

This well prepared concert of rare 20th C music was part of Goldsmiths Music Department's annual showcase.

Trombonist Christopher Augustinehad researched the rare Schnittke piece (Goldsmiths holds a Schnittke Archive) and performed it with accompanist Rebecca Wiles deputising on electrc keyboard for the intended organ. The soloist performed from several positions, moving about the Council Chamber. He explored 'upper partials' by blowing into the piano, prepared by interfering with the dampers to let the strings vibrate freely.

The piece explores the tenor trombone's highest register, negotiated confidently by the peripatetic top-hatted player who took was supported uninhibitedly by multi-keyboardist Rebecca Wiles. The hall was dimmed for atmospheric effect so it was not easy to read the notes which Augustine had supplied. On its own, the music failed to "speak" to us; an introductory illustration of what Schnittke was about wouldhave helped.

It was Crumb's Whale which had persuaded me that this was an unmissable event.

An unique work (last heard in the bowels of the Cutty Sark in 1994; see report below R)
it was presented according to the composer's instructions, the hall darkened, but with "underwater" lighting, the players masked to suggest "nature dehumanised".

The music, inspired by the 'singing' of the humpack whale, is weird and wonderful,with special effects including a vocalise in which the flutist sings into her instrument whilst playing it

Peter Grahame Woolf

q.v Destruction during renovation,
22 May 2007:
- - the accidental firing to near destruction of the Cutty Sark in Greenwich yesterday felt like a death of a close relative; we live close to the great ship, which is berthed next door to Trinity College of Music in its grand historic home built by Wren, Webb and Vanbrugh, and we walked past it (shrouded in protective covering) only the day before. But we have learned that its being an iron ship, not everything was reduced to a charred mess, and many of its important artifacts had been removed to safe storage during the work in progress.

From a musical point of view, this tragedy was a reminder of an innovative series held aboard ship, and I take this opportunity to reproduce here my 1994 report of that pioneering event by the Manchester-based ensemble Psappha, a season of concerts about the Sea which they gave on the Cutty Sark - hawling a grand piano down into the ship for the purpose!

What about Goldsmiths &/or Trinity Colleges preparing a Festival of Sea Music to celebrate the re-opening of this historic vessel, once repairs are completed?