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Julian Anderson, Colin Matthews, Mark-Anthony Turnage and Huw Watkins etc

Anderson Prayer & Poetry nearing silence;
Matthews The Island;
Turnage A constant obsession;
Watkins Horn Trio
Benjamin Piano Figures

Nash Ensemble/Martyn Brabbins
Lore Lixenberg & Mark Padmore

Wigmore Hall 5 March 2009

There have (so far) been very few reviews of this concert, mainly of recent British music, which failed to fill Wigmore Hall depite the Nash Ensemble's reputation. Many leading composers were there, those represented taking their bows and hugging the performers, plus plenty of dignitaries from the contemporary music business. everything was diligently prepared and well presented.

The Guardian complained of the excessive length of the concert... Lore Lixenberg (pictured) did Colin Matthews proud in his Rilke settings, deputising at short notice.

I liked best a few of the less forward looking works; and was glad to have stayed the course until the 10.15 finish of Mark-Anthony Turnage's quite conservative, Brittenish cycle of songs about love by Keats, Hardy, Tennyson, Thomas & Graves supported by an ensemble of eight. One reviewer thought it 'almost Elgarian'; another that 'they lack any of Turnage's characteristic pungency - - and veer uncomfortably close to Britten's song cycles'. However, they may prove very viable for more 'normal' mixed repertoire concerts, where 'cutting edge' novelty is not a premium requirement. And there was a lot going for Huw Watkins' Horn Trio, which rang the changes on a melody whose identity was easily followed throughout its transformations - though maybe it overstayed its welcome.

In terms of its impact and importance one should not overlook the most modest offering; Benjamin's "simple" piano pieces, taught by Aimard to children who premiered them in Luxembourg. Several of the works brought together on Thursday as Nash Inventions will soon retreat into the background, but George Benjamin's educational project may generate ripples and help to lead us towards a better future.

Peter Grahame Woolf

The Times: Mark-Anthony Turnage's A Constant Obsession suggested that he'd used the Britten song cycle composing kit, but there's no denying the genuine feelings coursing through these five settings of English poems about love and, eventually, death. - -