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Through the Lens: Reich/Richter

On Thursday 6 April the London Sinfonietta headed to the Southbank Centre for a gripping programme of contemporary classical music. We brought you a wonderfully gripping world premiere from Anna Clyne, performed in the first half alongside music from Julia Wolfe, Julius Eastman, and Mira Calix. The concert's second half consisted of a dramatic performance of Steve Reich and Gerhard Richter's Reich/Richter, rigorously led by Manoj Kamps who we were happy to welcome as conductor for the first time. 

Listen to BBC Radio 3's recording of the concert here.

The concert was easily one of the best I've attended in years! Excellent, well-paced programme, fabulous performers, a brilliant conductor and perfect acoustic and lighting. I'm a big fan and supporter of the Sinfonietta, and this was a very special evening. Audience member

Reich/Richter was composed in 2019 and first performed for the opening of The Shed in New York. It is a striking collaboration between the American composer Steve Reich and the German artist Gerhard Richter. The film is a collection of visual patterns, ranging from vivid abstract paintings to strikingly simple fine strips of colour which slowly melt into each other. The film starts with a two-pixel pulsating, colour-shifting line, which becomes four pixels, then sixteen, then 32 and so on. The music starts with a two-note oscillation that expands equally but then becomes liberated from the structure of the forms on film, allowing notes to escape and create their own destiny in this cool and elegant piece.

Music and visuals go hand in hand. As Gerhard Richter's abstract images narrow and divide, so Reich's music divides its rhythms, mirroring the faster pulse. Similarly, the film blazes with colour, which is reflected in music richer in texture than many of Reich's earlier works. Financial Times

London Sinfonietta stays optimistic - read the Financial Times' review here

Opening the concert and closing the first half: Julius Eastman's Joy Boy made a double feature. In its first performance, the piece appeared a beautiful and wistful minimalist composition. The second time, a fuller work emerged with Eastman's intentions more obvious, to conjure a sense of the ecstatic self, as a way to reclaim Black emotions, innocence, and sense of self. As noted in the programme, the piece asks 'can its subject, a self-actualized Black man, override its stigma without succumbing to rage and self-sabotage?' Eastman's answer is one of a committed resolve to play and replay.

The concert featured a performance of Nunu by Mira Calix, given in tribute following her untimely death in March 2022. Nunu was written for strings, electronics and live insects, but in this performance, live insects were replaced by the original insect recording from the piece's premiere and a film made by Mira. Inspired by the familiar sound of insects during her upbringing in South Africa, Nunu holds much sentimental value for her family, they explained in the programme: 'Mira Calix is our Nunu: in South Africa it is used as a term of endearment'. 

A fragile web of string shivers and scrapings, heard against an evocative background of live insect noises. The Guardian

Intricacies of Reich/Richter fascinate and overwhelm - read the Guardian's review here

Half way through the first half, the London Sinfonietta performed the world premiere of Fractured Time, by GRAMMY-nominated composer Anna Clyne. Anna Clyne said of her piece that 'Fractured Time explores the experience of time in states of fever, lucidity and anxiety during its brief and turbulent six minutes'. 

A frantic whirlwind of creativity [...] with an extraordinary degree of concentrated sophistication. Other composers would spread her myriad ideas across a wider canvas, but Clyne is content to leave us running behind, breathless at the speed at which she shifts from mood to mood, genre to genre. " The Observer

The week in classical: Reich/Richter; St John Passion: review - read the Observer's review here

Six bracing minutes of clashing textures and moods, mostly raucous with glimpses of balm, and as jittery as the soundtrack for a Bugs Bunny cartoon. The Times

Forget the abstract visuals, Steve Reich’s music still spreads joy - read the Times' review here

As with much of Julia Wolfe's music, her piece Tell me everything was characterised by an intense force and energy. Its inspiration lay in a cassette tape given to her by a friend of a performance by a South American band giving brass instruments a go for the first time, the piece was a rowdy and joyful experience for the audience. 

joyfully rasping, out-of-sync sounds inspired by a tape of a South African band playing with brass instruments for the first time The Times

Listen to the concert

Published: 12 Apr 2023