Sinfonia Cymru – Curate #Wineglass 

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Sinfonia Cymru – Curate #Wineglass

Tramshed Tech, Cardiff
Saturday 9th December 2017

Those who doubt they would enjoy the formality and pomp of a classical concert should fear not and consider the Curate # Series from Sinfonia Cymru.

Rushing to the Tramshed from Chapter (easily walkable in 15 mins) I went to the wrong part of the venue and had my bag searched for the gig which was also on the same night. Asking for my water back and rushing over to Tramshed Tech, I swiftly saw the laid back atmosphere, which was a world away from a gig ambience. I was immensely relieved.

The new office space had been transformed for the concert, with a bar (taking donations for drinks), small conference room for the interval presentations and large screens to display film work. The quartet of musicians, (essentially chamber music) with the inclusion of film projection as we sat on comfy sofas and office chairs was splendid. A student would be a fool to miss something like this, not to mention the discounted ticket prices for them as well.

Starting with Philip Glass, we got the suite from his film Bent. This sombre film (originally a film) involves the plight of gay men during the Holocasut and is exemplary in its scene of infamous imagined intercourse between two male prisoners. The music is instantly recognisable for Glass and has some charms and driving themes within it. Film work by Lucy Corbett, featuring extended takes of beaches and close-ups of water from Welsh ports, compliments the rhythmic lapping of the notes tremendously well.

I confess I was really here to hear the Geroge Crumb, though I had found everything else with the programme pleasing. His Black Angles is a terrifying response to the Vietnam War, a mighty political thing to express in music at the time. Here the same players have their instruments amplified, count in German/French, shout nonsense, strike gongs, play wines glasses filled with water and even use thimbles on their instruments. The work has a creeping horror to it, because of the subject matter and the execution. At one point, even Schubert is quoted.

A striking moment is when all four play with their bows above their fingers, chillingly muting the sounds from each instrument. How like a viol consort it briefly became, only to quickly shift back into the deranged atmosphere. The wine glasses are another highlight, again using their bows to play mesmeric passages, a brief interlude of bliss. For the time of its completion, this was riot worthy stuff and hearing Black Angels live still holds a candle up to that heady time. Sensational.

Also in between the main works, Daniel Soley had visual installations, with live violin playing and film work to show us. Having seen his work at The Sleeper Society earlier this year, it was fab to see more of his artistic offerings. He seemed delighted to share his work and helped maintained the laid-back atmosphere of the whole night. Local students helped animate his work and there are mind mind-melting moments. His software also added to the trippy feel with vortexes, brimming with colours and textures. We’d be keen to see him and other artists show their work in between futures Curate concerts!

Ending as we started, it was more Phillip Glass to see us out. His 5th String Quartet might not grab me as much as his film scores and his early opera, yet is does have charm. One section of mostly pizzicato plucking was a delight, away from the unrelenting scales and arpeggios that frequent the entire piece. You have certainly heard Glass by just hearing one piece, but the subtle changes he creates in his scores are what make people come back to him again and again. That’s what makes him so darn popular.

Although these Curate concert has been going since 2013, I’m sad to have only gone now. I think they are a fantastic idea, stripping away the pretence of the grand concert experience. It’s never a bad thing!

Tremendously accessible & inspiring.

Rating: ****

Curate #Wineglass is free to watch back for 30 days on Sinfonia Cymru’s FaceBook page.

Sinfonia Cymru’s next Curate is #BigIdeas, featuring the music of Michael Gordon, Philip Glass, Bach & Steve Reich at Tramshed Tech on 24th March 2018.

Sinfonia Cymru’s next touring concerts around Wales featuring Mozart, Bartok & Huw Watkins, throughout March 2018.

Banner Credit: Sinfonia Cymru Website

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Banner Credit: Sinfonia Cymru Website

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