Psappha: Got Rhythm (3×3), online, 10 December 2020, from £5 - Book now
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).
Streaming live from Hallé St Peter’s, the concert will begin 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.
While this event was previously planned for a live audience, Manchester’s Tier 3 status means that it will now go ahead in a livestream capacity only. Tune into the action via Psappha’s website or via the ensemble’s YouTube channel.
Psappha: Got Rhythm (3×3), online