Open to Infinity: A Grain of Sand
At First Light
About the event
The 20th century marked the beginning of a golden age of composition in England, lasting to the present day. This year’s Bridging Europe festival focuses on Great Britain and will dedicate a separate concert to the past 40 years of the country’s music. The works by the youngest composer on the program, Christian Mason, two of his teachers George Benjamin and Julian Anderson, as well as Thomas Adès, who spread the fame of contemporary British opera the furthest, are all reflections on the beauty of the world that surrounds us and the importance of tiny details. Performers will include double Kossuth Prize laureate cellist Miklós Perényi, who is regularly featured in the columns of the New York Times. The concert will be conducted by Franck Ollu, lauded by Gramophone Magazine as a seal of quality beyond question.
Mason felt that William Blake’s lines “To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour” captured the essence of Pierre Boulez’s art perfectly―creating an infinite world from an infinitesimal component. The opening movement of the work composed in 2015 in honor of the 90-year-old maestro sets the first line of the poem to music, focusing on the tiny, cymbal-like crotal bells.
Thomas Adès’s Lieux retrouvés, originally composed for cello and piano in 2009 and subsequently arranged for cello and orchestra, followed one year later. The first movement (Les eaux) features flowing sounds of varying intensity. The second, La montagne, is a conquest of a mount peak amid wild thrumming, followed by a moment of absolute quiet, and the triumphant planting of the flag. Les champs is sunny and calm, with magical harmonics of the cello dying away in the end. All this is in stark contrast to the dark and virtuosic death cancan of the last movement (La ville).
With the Alhambra Fantasy, Anderson pays tribute to the architecture of the famous Spanish palace, by musically representating the building’s Moorish background and the beauty of the landscape. Though the composition has no declared program, the images speak for themselves: the brusque and energetic first movement conjuring up the building with lots of percussions is followed by the sharp contrast of the Granada panorama in the next movement.
The title of Benjamin’s piece concluding the concert refers to the first rays of light. William Turner’s painting Norham Castle, Sunrise, created around 1845, was the inspiration for the music; in particular Turner’s portrayal of solid objects seemingly melting away when touched by the rays of the sun. Accordingly, in this three-movement work phrases are melted with the intriguingly flowing, nebulous sounds. The brilliant light piercing through the haze is followed by a gradual illumination filled with contrasts.