Linda Reichert in Huddersfield

Linda Reichert. Jan 30, 2012
hcmf c Alex Beldea

From Network’s Artistic Director Linda Reichert:

In November, I spent 5 days at the international Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (HCMF) – courtesy of a Philadelphia Music Project professional development grant – attending myriad concerts and symposia featuring music performed by some of the best new music bands in Europe (or anywhere).

Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (c. Alex Beldea)

Presenting 36 paid and 34 free events over a span of 9 days, the HCMF proved to be an ambitious showcase for (mostly) experimental music that explored the “Nordic Sound” including works by featured composer Bent Sorenson and other Danish and Norwegian composers, as well as music by Xenakis, Bernhard Lang and Fausto Romitelli, a recently-deceased Italian composer I had never heard of but whose music made me want to hear lots more.  Wildly-extended instrumental techniques, multi-genre commissions, free improv and electro/acoustic works (with both fixed media and real-time computer interaction) made up the bulk of the thought-provoking programming.  Interestingly, although about 150 composers were represented in this festival, U.S. composers consisted of only a small fraction of the programming, including music by Aaron Jay Kernis and Annie Gosfield.

Emanuele Casale

Unexpectedly, one of the stand-out pieces was Studio 2a, a bass recorder/tape work by Emanuele Casale (again, an unknown to me) that picks up where Davidovsky leaves off in an astounding work of complex beauty, performed in a shattering performance by the young Brit, Chris Orton.  In fact, I experienced the great majority of performances as shatteringly beautiful: the ensemble recherche, the Cikada Ensemble, Ensemble Scenatet, players from the London Sinfonietta: they all played with total conviction, passion and brilliant virtuosity. There were lots of large, long and complex ensemble pieces (8-10 players), performed WITHOUT A CONDUCTOR, with the aid of lots of body language and the benefit of countless rehearsals – these performances could lure any listener into a new music addiction.

It was wonderful to get to hear some of the most cutting-edge music in Europe today. The HCMF, of course, has lots of support, including the BBC Radio 3, the British Council, the resources of the University of Huddersfield, arts funding from Norway and France, and several large foundations.  Although the town of Huddersfield is out in the middle of nowhere, an hour northwest of Manchester, events were packed, and often sold out.

musikFabrik (c. Carolene Lees)

Makes me wonder what audiences and funders would hear on this side of the ocean, if new music in the U.S had access to the kind of broad government and media support that European composers and ensembles have?

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