Kate Whitley – 3 Pieces for Violin and Piano
Harrison Birtwistle – The Axe Manual
Gordon McPherson – Maps and Diagrams of Our Pain
Got Rhythm is the final event in Psappha’s mini-series of concerts featuring scaled-back, socially-distanced trios. In the programme are three arresting contemporary works by Kate Whitley, Harrison Birtwistle and Gordon McPherson, performed by Benedict Holland (violin), Benjamin Powell (piano) and Tim Williams (percussion).
Taking place at Hallé St Peter’s, the concert begins with 3 Pieces for Violin and Piano by one of Britain’s most exciting young composers. Founder of London’s excellent Multi-Story Orchestra, Kate Whitley’s award-winning music has been described as ‘uniquely sensitive’ (Bachtrack) and ‘powerfully moving’ (Edinburgh Fringe Review). 3 Violin and Piano Pieces is inspired by Janáček’s Viola Sonata and has a similarly tense and fragmentary character, with beautiful intertwined dialogue between both instruments.
Next in the programme is a typically uncompromising work from the catalogue of Harrison Birtwistle, one of Britain’s greatest living composers. The Axe Manual is every bit as sharp and striking as its title suggests, with Birtwistle’s sensitivity to rhythm and to the texture of sound on full show. Composed in 2000, the piece creates a kind of meta-instrument out of the piano and percussion, with both parts wound so tightly around each other that the lines of separation begin to blur. Imbuing the piano sound with new percussiveness draws the mind’s eye to the instrument’s hidden mechanics, and to the idea that its sleek, glossy exterior might be a kind of mirage.
The programme is completed by Gordon McPherson’s Maps and Diagrams of Our Pain, a slow-burning, dense work rooted in obsession and fear. Like much of McPherson’s music, this duo for piano and violin takes its cues from ordinary life. Here, he draws on a fascination with psychiatry, in particular obsessive-compulsive disorders, sending the piano and violin on a schizoid journey into the labyrinth of a troubled mind. Descending into this dark inner world via maze-like contours, the piece is by turns defined by systematic chaos and choked desolation.
In order to meet government guidelines on social distancing, a maximum of 30 tickets will be on sale for this concert. Psappha will also be livestreaming the event on their website for free, in order to allow as many people as possible to enjoy this excellent programme.