Xenakis and others with Ensemble Exposé

Xenakis, Redgate, Finnissy, Kittos: Ensemble Exposé/Roger Redgate (Conductor), Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 2.4.2011 (CC)
Xenakis Anaktoria for octet
Redgate ST/X-1 for string quartet and turntables
Xenakis Akea for piano quintet
Finnissy Talawa for oboe quartet
Kittos Omadón for oboe quartet
Xenakis Palimpsest for eleven instruments

The idea of this programme, entitled Xenakis Inspires, was to present the music of composers directly influenced by Xenakis’ music alongside music by Xenakis himself. Anaktoria (1989) means “beautiful like a palace” and is the name of a notable woman from Lesbos, with whom Sappho was in love”. Composed at a time of revolutionary uprisings (it was played in factories soon after its Avignon premiere), it is a timbrally interesting piece. Again, there is a prominent bassoon part (linking to Phlegra of the first concert). Silence played a vital role here, as did the obligatory registral extremes.

Roger Redgate’s ST/Xt has a title that at once links to the source of its inspiration. The scoring for string quartet and turntable was novel (was the turntable part improvised? – the player had no score that I could see). The turntable’s sonic swoops were interesting, but sandwiched between two Xenakis scores is nowhere for this “short homage” to be.  Xenakis’ Alea (1986) was interesting in introducing some constructs that could almost be described as tonal. The language was gestural, certainly, but the overall impression was of a paring down of vocabulary;  less is more. Xenakis sets the piano (the excellent, musical Mark Knoop) in opposition to the strings effectively. A mere eleven minutes in length, the piece made its point tellingly.

Michael Finnissy’s Talawa received its World Premiere. The title derives from American Hopi Indian mythology and refers to the third phase of the dawn of Creation, “in whose red fully-formed human beings stand to proudly face their creator”. Although there are no direct references to the Hopi Indians, there is a