Monday, March 01, 2010


M&G Concert at the Civic Theatre


220 words

John Adams' Shaker Loops is one of his best-known pieces – a prime example of his minimalist style which paved the way for popularisers like Michael Nyman.

English Sinfonia's lambent account, conducted by their artistic advisor Geoffrey Alexander, was the first I have heard in live performance. I was struck by the way the various “voices” detached themselves from the trills and tremolos, progressing through the sixteen players, as the excitement of Shaking and Trembling led to the slow burn of Loops and Verses, with its low cello melody.

The Loops of the title are tape-looped repetitions, the Shakers are not only the trilling strings, but also the religious group that gave the US simple hymns and simple furniture.

This is very much an American piece, and it was followed, in a programme devoted to shorter works, by the English pastoral miniatures of Holst's Brook Green Street, the deep Scandinavian resonances of Sibelius's Romance in C, and the Slavic charm of Suk's Serenade, featuring the lyrical violin of English Sinfonia's director Janice Graham, and, as in the Adams, cellist Julia Graham.

The concert began with two contrasting chamber works by Mozart,a Divertimento for Strings, and an Adagio and Fugue, originally a piece for two pianos.

A combination of imaginative programming and impressive ensemble made this a welcome return visit by English Sinfonia.

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