Psappha: Music for Accordion (In Focus) at Hallé St Peter’s

Part of our Classical Music in Manchester and the North guide

Johnny James, Music Editor
Alejandro Tamagno

Psappha: Music for Accordion (In Focus) at Hallé St Peter’s, Ancoats, 27 May 2021, from £5 - Book now

Bethan Morgan-Williams Traces of a Disco (6’)
Anthony Gilbert Rose luisante (10’)
Rebecca Saunders Quartet (15’)
Hans Abrahamsen Three Little Nocturnes (10’)
Helmut Lachenmann Toccatina (6’)
David John Roche New work for accordion – World premiere – Psappha commission (10’)

To close Psappha’s 2020-21 season, world-class accordionist Miloš Milivojević brings out his box of tricks and guides us through a variety of music written for this unexpectedly versatile instrument.

Lauded by The Times as a “hurricane of imaginative invention”, Serbian born Miloš Milivojević is one of the finest accordionists of his generation. His versatility in performing different genres including classical, tango and Balkan music leads him to be in constant demand throughout the UK and abroad, and has seen him win first prizes at International Competitions in Germany, France, Italy and Denmark. With Psappha, Milivojević will perform works by established contemporary classical composers including Rebecca Saunders and Anthony Gilbert, and give the world premiere of a new work by young composer David John Roche.

One of the programme’s highlights is Quartet (1998) by Rebecca Saunders, a Berlin-based British composer who’s recognised as a leading international representative of her generation. Saunders’ compositions focus on the sculptural and spatial properties of organised sound, and push minute gradations of timbre and intonation to the foreground of the listener’s consciousness. Written for accordion, clarinet, double-bass and piano, Quartet starts with heavy, bruising blows and moves towards ruminative jitters and shimmers – a meditation on the materiality of sound.

Two more highlights in the programme are Rose luisante (2003) by British composer Anthony Gilbert and Three Little Nocturnes (2005) by Copenhagen’s Hans Abrahamsen. The former is a radiant solo accordion work inspired by a window in Bayeux Cathedral in Normandy. It juxtaposes long, slow chords with fast filigrees that remind us of light dancing through coloured glass. The latter, written for accordion and string quartet, is a set of three miniatures that pair shimmering string harmonics with the accordion’s gentle wheezing and oom-pah-pah folk rhythms.

We also look forward to pieces by two young composers. First, a world premiere by British-Welsh composer David John Roche, whose catalogue includes works for vacuum cleaners and orchestra as well as pieces for customised Dutch street organs. His music tends to be either celebratory and bright, consciously in opposition to the world in which it’s written, or manic, detailed, and violent in response to the poverty and politics of our time. The second work is by celebrated Welsh composer Bethan Morgan-Williams. Inspired by Plato’s Disco, a sculpture by David Batchelor, Traces of a Disco explores gradual shifts in colour, luminance, sensation and awareness. It was premiered by Psappha to a great reception at The Whitworth three years ago.

Finally, Psappha’s Benedict Holland will tackle Helmut Lachenmann’s taut and edgy Toccatina for solo violin. The German composer’s music is often dubbed ‘instrumental musique concrète’, owing to similarities with electro-acoustic composer Pierre Schaeffer’s mid 20th Century music which utilised recorded sounds as raw material (a technique known as ‘musique concrete’). Written in 1986, Toccatina focusses on subtle transformations of timbre, and explores the continuum from pitched sound to textural noise. A variety of special techniques will be on show, with Holland exploring every inch of his violin, from the bridge to the tuning pegs to the scroll.

It’s an excellent programme, which will shine brightly in the hands of Miloš Milivojević and Psappha. If you want to get clued up on the music ahead of the concert, make sure to arrive at Hallé St Peter’s early (6.40pm) for an introductory talk by Milivojević, David John Roche and Psappha’s Tim Williams.

Psappha: Music for Accordion (In Focus) at Hallé St Peter’s, Ancoats

27 May 2021 7:30 pm
From £5