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Kreutzers & Lontano at South London Art Gallery

South London Gallery, 65 Peckham Road, London, SE5 23rd & 25th March 2010

Photos: Robert Hollingworth





The Kreutzer Quartet took on the first of two Fuse Arts events "to encourage the interaction and fusion of elements of different artistic/creative nature in the development of new works of art - the exact nature of creative communication in both these events was not prescribed or defined".

Some younger composers were showcased by the Kreutzers in an ambitious catch-all type of programme which proved to be overloaded and - for us - overlong. It was given, bizarrely we felt, without an interval to preserve continuity, although there was a well stocked bar in the hall outside...

The four members of the Kreutzer Quartet got to work at 7 o'clock, improvising in response to each other in the four extreme corners of the large South London Art Gallery, empty between shows.

This new music event was well attended, but with items juxtaposed to the disadvantage of many of the more inscrutable pieces which, as 9.30 approached, failed to make best impressions in their context.

The hit of the evening was undoubtedly a new piece for and against the string quartet by Laura Bowler, who cites her influences as " Stephen Sondheim, Harrison Birtwistle, Ligeti, Thomas Ades, Mark Anthony Turnage, Judith Weir...", a good start.

The sustained savagery of her new Theatre of Cruelty recreated the shock that, say, the first movement of Bartok's 4th Quartet must have induced in its first listeners. After some minutes I wondered if Laura's piece was becoming too long, but then settled down to realise that this was part of its point; fortunately it was placed in the first half of the programme, before surfeit began to figure. It should be played again soon, but musicians should be warned to ensure that they have spare strings...

The Estonian Elo Masing, a classical violinist now pursuing her passion for free improvisation and composition, introduced her overlong and seemingly shapeless piece inaudibly; I reproduce its score, a page which was played through one way up, then turned upside down... what more can one say?

Masing's work can be explored to better advantage on MySpace, where she has a picturesque page with sound samples.

Of other pieces, Coates' Fifth Dimension took us into dark territory with pulsating glissandi, and Trandafilovski's new Star Factory relied for intensification upon insistent tremolando, as had Schubert memorably in his G major Quartet.





Lontano/Odaline de la Martinez
Raymond Yiu - Northwest Wind
Odaline de la Martinez - Improvisation for solo violin
Jacob Thompson - Movements Through The Town
Drew Wilson - Ardent

Lontano, two days later, brought to South London Gallery GOIN' HOME - SOUTHWARK WALKS, a characteristic programme of theirs for mixed ensemble, with unfamiliar pieces, three of them world premieres, introduced succinctly by the composers. Each was good to hear, but not greatly memorable. Caroline Balding (violin) was persuasive in a wild solo Latin-American dance by conductor Odaline de Martinez framed by expressive slower movements, and Jacob Thompson featured the viola (Kate Musker) to good effect in his Southwark cityscape Movements through the Town, which linked with an educational project involving children from the City of London Academy.

The concerts were filmed for DVD by Colin Still.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See Lorelt - Lontano Records. A Lontano CD of music by Odaline de Martinez (pictured) has been newly released - Lorelt LNT 130 [Editor]