Thursday 20 January 2022

Honouring three revolutionary icons: Ensemble Offspring's Elegy celebrates the music of Louis Andriessen, Frederic Rzewski and Ian Shanahan

Ensemble Offspring's Elegy - Benjamin Kop, Christopher Pidcock
Ensemble Offspring's Elegy - Benjamin Kop, Christopher Pidcock

Last year, I reviewed a terrific disc from the long-established Sydney-based contemporary music group, Ensemble Offspring featuring three commissions by Australian composers [see my review]. There is currently an opportunity to enjoy the group's work online as part of its digital initiative, Offspring for All

Their forthcoming online event, Elegy, debuts on 4 February on YouTube (at 8pm AEDT, which works out to be 9am, 5 February in the UK) and then available on demand on the ensemble's website. The concert honours three iconic composers who all died in 2021, Louis Andriessen (1939-2021), Frederic Rzweski (1938-2021) and Ian Shanahan (1962-2021). Each composer was, in his way, revolutionary and the concert showcases music written in the 1970s and 1980s (with one exception).

They open Andriessen’s reflective and romantic Elegy (1975) for cello (Christopher Pidcock) and piano (Benjamin Kop), followed by the 2017 piano solo Rimsky or La Monte Young which reveals the composer’s sense of humour. Then comes Rzewski’s epic jazz-inspired quartet for flute, bass-clarinet, double bass and vibraphone Song and Dance (1977), followed by percussionist Claire Edwardes – equipped with simple clay flower pots – in Rzewski’s spiritualistic homage To The Earth for percussion solo. Jason Noble (clarinets) pays tribute to the late Australian icon Ian Shanahan with Pastels (1982) for clarinet solo, and is joined by Edwardes (percussion) to close the concert with Shanahan’s Echoes/Fantasies (1984). Full details of the concert from Ensemble Offspring's website.

Elegy is the ensemble's third digital offering and it is well worthwhile exploring the previous ones. Blue Silence features Jason Noble (bass clarinet), Claire Edwardes (percussion) and Emily Granger (harp) in a programme that features recent pieces by Nathan Daughtrey (USA), Caleb Burhans (USA), and Gunnar Andreas Kristinsson (Iceland) alongside works by Australian composers. Tristan Coelho's In transit was written for his partner, harpist Emily Granger; Gerard Brophy's new duet for bass clarinet and marimba, Just outside Van, is inspired by Turkey’s eastern coastal city of Van; Elena Kats-Chernin's Blue Silence features a version for trio of a work originally written for cello and piano (2006). Ensemble Offspring's Blue Silence event is available on YouTube.

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