The Michael Nyman Band
, Hope Street
25th April 2014
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.