Darragh Morgan with MANTIS

Concert: Cosmo Rodewald Hall Thursday 30th September 2010.

The University of Manchester’s concert season got of to a great start yesterday with the first of its free lunchtime concerts, Darragh Morgan with MANTIS.

The first piece on the programme was Fields of Darkness and Light for violin and triggers by Adrian Moore from the University of Sheffield. According to Adrian’s programme notes, this piece is built upon a sequence of thirteen chords over which the violin presents a number of themes. Where this piece differed from those following it on the bill, was in the fact that there was no real-time processing of the violin. Instead, the ‘tape’ part is divided into smaller segments which are triggered by the computer performer, and thereby allowing the violinist to have some freedom with tempi and phrasing. What I like about this approach is that it reduces the risk, faced by a lot of instrument and live electronics pieces, of sounding like a series of extended technique sonorities buffered and then mashed up in MaxMSP, resulting in rather formless works whose interest lies more in the programming than in music. Adrian sidestepped these problems of the genre effortlessly producing an excellent piece that had a hint of Romanticism about it, particularly in the violin gestures themselves.

The second piece on the programme was Ricardo Climent’s Koorean Air for solo violin and electronic expression. In his programme notes, Ricardo states that this piece is very much to result of collaborating closely with Darragh Morgan and he goes as far as to describe it as ‘our’ piece. This composition was not unlike a duet between the live performer and the electronics, demonstrating a real dialogue between the two instruments.

Paul Wilson’s Trapped in Ice for violin and electronics uses the theme of freezing as a metaphor for the constrained nature of its musical material. What I enjoyed most about this particular piece was the extensive use of Sul ponticello and lovely, intricate, little filigree lines.

The final piece on the programme was Simon Emmerson‘s Stringscape for violin and electronics. In Simon’s notes he writes that lyric, drone and texture lie at the core of this piece, although it is intended that it should not always be easy to tell the difference. The drone sections were particularly effective, sounding not unlike great bellowing bagpipes.

Throughout the entire concert, Darragh Morgans’s playing was impeccable and he appeared to negotiate demanding music with great effortlessness and musicality. Overall, this was a great concert that bodes well for the rest of the season at Cosmo Rodewald Hall.

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2 Responses to Darragh Morgan with MANTIS

  1. Anikó Tóth says:

    I can corroborate the beauty, skill and sensitivity with which Morgan’s playing enchanted the audience. Even watching the graceful wrist and smooth, slick technique were visually satisfying, coupled with the gorgeous delicate sounds Morgan made.

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