The Michael Nyman Band

Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Hope Street
25th April 2014

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Nyman & The Baroque

It was raining cats and dogs outside. Inside it would shortly be raining down sounds of another order altogether. The Michael Nyman Band had finally arrived in town for a much awaited concert and his ardent band of followers were up for it. In the hall the expectation was palpable as the eleven strong band and its eponymous leader strode onto the stage.

The players banked up in two phalanxs of six : on the right a mainly brass section and guitar; on the left a string quartet, french horn and the composer himself at the piano, for what would be not your normal classical evening at the Phil. Besides a missed full house another notable feature was the age of the audience, with many younger faces than at a typical classical concert here. Further the programme was not as glossy as it might have been - a single A5 sheet resembling a restaurant menu.

Tonight was also a trip down memory lane for Peter Greenaway fans; his collaborationist film scores with Nyman in the 1980's central to the evenings entertainment. Two iconic pieces from The Draughtman's Contract 'Chasing Sheep is Best Left to Shepherds' and 'An Eye for Optical Theory got events underway - an homage to Purcell but setting the minimalist repetitive style for what was to follow. 'Prawn Watching' and 'Time Lapse' from A Zed and Two Noughts, had the manic strings and blaring brass reflecting the sustained layering of modular transpositions of decomposition, captured in musical space.

The first half ended with The Musicologist Scores. At over 21 minutes, and demanding more attention span from the listener, it's slowly evolving harmonic re-ordering of discrete phases included a rare outing for flute as the collective individually strove to outdo each other.

To the delight of most, in the interval the composer sat at a table groaning with CD's, but was equally as happy to autograph any proffered tickets placed before him.

Part two started with Memorial, a 12 minute reflection, which Nyman informed everyone will form the basis of his 11th Symphony, 'Hillsborough Memorial'. It is to have its world premiere in the city's Anglican Cathedral this July. One over enthusiastic fan was evicted from his seat at the end of this moving piece for being too vocal in his applause.

'Come onto these Yellow Sands' was not an invitation to Freshfield Beach but a musical invocation from Prospero's Books, as the mage and composer alike worked their respective magic on stage and screen.

Next up a 2009 departure, 'In Turin' from a joint enterprise with David McAlmont capturing events making the news that year. In quick succession 'Gliding', 'Synchronising', 'Coupling' and 'Splashing' from the 1984 film Water Dances brought the advertised programme to a close.

Frenetic and demanding as the bowing and blowing had been, the visceral hypnotic repetitions and abrupt changes in tempi, timbre and rhythm, orchestrated by the page turning pianist, were not over yet.

Four standing ovations after four encores bore testimony to how much the concert had been enjoyed by those present; finally this modern day exploration of the Baroque style was over.

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