Friday, 1 April 2016

59 Pieces of Music in Four Days

Today is my final day at the 2016 ISCM Music Days in Tongyeong in South Korea. The cherry blossom is in full bloom, but the view of the islands over the peninsula is misty and evocative.

By my calculation, I've heard 59 individual pieces of contemporary music whilst here from over fifty different countries. Some of the most interesting have come from Asian composers, using the tools of the western tradition, but from a new and fascinating perspective. I would have lost track altogether of the various pieces, had I not kept notes. At one of the assembly meetings it was suggested that each of us nominate half a dozen pieces that we were particularly struck by - here are a few of the names and pieces that have stood out for me this week. Click on the composers' names to reach their website.

One of the most evocative pieces, filled with delicate colours was Midsummer Song by Lithuanian composers Raminta Šerkšnytė (b.1975) played by the strings of the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble (30 March). 

From Britain came a virtuoso choral work by the young composer Alexander Campkin (b.1984), Unleash the beauty of your eyes sung by the Incheon City Chorale (28 March). 

Finnish-born Jouni Hirvelä came up with a fabulous orchestral piece Vuolle based on "the movement of gliding water masses of the Kymi River in South East Finland" - a magical piece of orchestral textures played by Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa (28 March).

Rita Ueda's As snowflakes return to the sky was one of Canada's entries. Scored for string ensemble, it's a mesmerising piece whose quietly repetitive rhythms produce a wonderfully meditative effect (29 March - Hong Kong New Music Ensemble). 

In terms of sheer beauty and mastery if orchestral texture, there wasn't much this week to match Isao Matsushita's Prayer of the Firmament - written in response to the nuclear disaster on 11 March 2011 (Changwon Philharmonic Orchestra, 29 March). 

Orchestra mastery of a different kind came in Elzbieta Sikora's Five Miniatures for Orchestra - a work displaying the passion of youth and mastery of a lifetime (31 March, Gyeonggi Philharmonic Orchestra)

Then, finally, there was Francisco del Pino's Largrimas for solo cello - elegant, utterly new but highly expressive (Ensemble TMIF, 30 March).