Guest Blogger: RAM Student Chris Petrie attends a rehearsal of Beat Furrer’s Nuun

Beat Furrer – composer, conductor and co-founder of Klangforum Wien – is hugely influential in Europe, yet his work has hardly been heard in the UK. Prior to tonight’s London Sinfonietta’s performance of three of his seminal works, including two UK premieres, we invited some  students from the Royal Academy of Music to attend a rehearsal and tell us what they thought. Here is Chris’s blog …

London Sinfonietta Rehearsal 17/01/11 – Beat Furrer: Nuun

Before last week I was not at all familiar with the music of Beat Furrer, which was also the case for most of my peers. Over this last week I have attended a variety of Furrer events and have come to admire his music and approach to composition on a number of levels. Furrer’s temperament, both on and off the podium, is quiet and thoughtful. These characteristics are apparent in his compositions where he has obviously taken much time to contemplate every detail, of which there are many.

I attended the rehearsal of Nuun which is one of his seminal larger-scaled works. I had previously heard a recording of this work (Klangforum Wien, conducted by Peter Eötvös) and had particularly enjoyed Furrer’s approach to colour and sound through complex textures. These textures are often teeming with extended techniques that are a common feature of his compositions, and are somewhat interrelated with his love of visual art. These dense textures that often cut back and forth between sparser scoring create large soundscapes that ebb and flow between background to foreground music over the course of entire compositions. These textures are then often punctuated by simple, yet effective, compositional ideas such as trumpet calls, clusters and scalic figurations in a composition such as Nuun.

Nuun is dominated by two pianos, one on either side of the stage that create a very effective ‘stereo’ sound. The pianos instigate the general textures and moods of the other two-dozen or so musicians who are placed in between the pianos.

The opening of Nuun starts with a previously mentioned densely complex ensemble before the trumpet calls provide the first feature that the ear can wholly embrace. These darkly urgent trumpet calls echo around the winds before dissipating into scalic gestures that in turn, melt into clusters. These compositional ideas are transformed over time towards a ‘climax’, after which two ‘silent’ pauses are heard. This signals the beginning of the end and from here the piece devolves towards the increasingly sparse ending.

The London Sinfonietta, with students from the Royal Academy of Music, expertly realise Furrer’s intentions in an intensely energetic fashion. Through working with the composer himself, the London Sinfonietta have provided me with a memorable first experience of this work which I will look forward to enjoying in concert with other compositions by Furrer and Naomi Pinnock.

Chris Petrie

Click here to find out more about the In Portrait: Beat Furrer concert at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall tonight.

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