18 July 2017

More on Notes from Underground

Who better to write - or talk - about this piece than the man of letters who produced the words, Sean O'Brien. Apropos of the - then - impending repeat performance at the Newcastle Poetry Festival 2017, O'Brien gave an interview on the subject. As to me, I probably said as much as I need to say about this piece in last year's blog entry.

Today's is only an update on this piece's afterlife so far. The Newcastle performance - Gateshead, in fact, in Hall Two at Sage - was one to be proud of. Voices of Hope, still fresh from their BBC Choir of the Year triumph, gave a committed, thoughtful, polished performance. Marcus Farnsworth showed impressive knowledge and understanding of the piece with his deep, characterful and vocally splendid rendition. Hugh Brunt held everything together as conductors should: firmly, confidently, without fuss. The players of Royal Northern Sinfonia did what one expects them to do, past masters of their instruments that they are.

Before that, at the Sigismund Toduța Festival 2016, Notes from Underground received a performance that shed a different light on the piece at the Philharmonic Hall in Cluj-Napoca. The young conductor Vlad Agachi had the difficult task of making the piece happen with a student orchestra. It is, of course, no ordinary student orchestra, but that of the Gheorghe Dima Academy. They generously appointed an entire orchestral string section rather than the expected one-player-to-a-part. The result showed me a whole new range of possibilities I had not foreseen, and made me decide to reorchestrate the piece for full orchestra.  Cristian Hodrea was an imposing vocal presence and Cappella Transylvanica gave a breath-takingly well prepared performance. I felt privileged to see their talents poured so generously into this music.

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