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Lunch with a composer

Yesterday was the start of the 2007 Edinburgh Festival, and the most memorable day I have spent there. We began in the Queen's Hall with Jane Irwin and the Hebrides Ensemble. Jane Irwin used to be famous for singing like Janet Baker, but now she's famous for singing like Jane Irwin. Her performance of Mahler's Kindertotenlieder was so moving that the audience was silent and still for a full ten seconds after the sound of its final bars died, before bursting into inevitable applause. Harper's lean arrangement of Mahler's orchestral score for 8 instruments was intriguing and fresh. Less is more.

After the interval, the Hebrides Ensemble played Osborne's Balkan Dances and Laments, which they had recently commissioned. It draws on his interest in folk and popular music from the South Balkans, as well as his rigorous classical training, and features a new method of playing the piano: a string is bowed with horsehair, which sounds gimmicky, but was very effective. Sandwiched between Mahler and Berio, Nigel Osborne was in good company, musically speaking, and the audience obviously liked the fact that the composer was not only present, but also shook hands with the performers.

Even better, because husband Keir works with Nigel Osborne through the Tapestry Partnership, we had lunch with him in a nearby restaurant, so I got to ask him the questions that had been building up in my head. The conversation ranged widely over Balkan history, James Joyce, his pioneering work in music therapy for child victims of war, his music school in Austria, the Robert Winston conference in Glasgow in September et al. He speaks about a dozen foreign languages more fluently than I'll ever speak a single one, and if he weren't such a modest chap, I'd almost resent so much musical and linguistic talent in just one person.

After lunch, we went to some Fringe theatre, and finally to On Danse, the most eclectic and athletic dance programme I've ever seen. Montalvo-Hervieu is a blazingly creative Spanish-French partnership, and their company marries creative video animations and multi-talented live dancers in an improbable but brilliant fusion. Hip-hop, classical ballet, break-dancing and trampolining all blend in this choreography, to a background of music by Rameau. The playful computer-based morphing and antics of the animals made us laugh out loud at times, with elephants pirouetting on tightropes and storks doing gymnastics. There was a subtle and surreal interplay between the live dancers and their filmed (naked) selves, via the catwalk, halfway up the massive upstage screen. It was utterly different from any other ballet.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 12, 2007 1:42 PM.

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