JUrning Points is the London Sinfonietta’s occasional series at Kings Place, focusing on some of the most important composers of the 20th century and their key works, and designed to bring newcomers to modern music. Admittedly, the audience at the last concert, introduced by Sara Mohr-Pietsch, contained some of the familiar faces seen on Sinfonietta’s Southbank Center dates. But the program that Gerry Cornelius conducted, containing short pieces by four of the unquestionably great figures of the past 100 years, was much more like the kind of concert which was once the bread and butter of the orchestra, and which it plays too rarely these days. .
Mohr-Pietsch’s thought-provoking introduction spoke of “listening rituals”, likening the modern concert hall to the sacred spaces of prehistoric cultures, though drawing such parallels helps break down barriers between new audiences and the new music is questionable. But the choice of works offered a showcase for the range of contemporary styles.
Edgard Varèse’s Densité 21.5 for solo flute, played with incantatory power by Michael Cox, provided the austere modernist starting point. The bursts, trills and moments of sudden stillness of Pierre Boulez’s Dérive I, which the Sinfonietta premiered in 1985, followed, contrasting with the isolated string phrases and icy piano chords of the third of the pieces Viola in My Life of Morton Feldman by Paul Silverthorne and Elizabeth Burley.
O King, Luciano Berio’s memorial to Martin Luther King, was performed in its chamber form, with the voice of mezzo-soprano Simone Ibbett-Brown integrated into the textures of just five instruments, and a much more sober and rawer than the orchestral version. of the work that Berio would include in his acclaimed Sinfonia. Finally, there was something newer – Tansy Davies Grind Show (unplugged), a reminder that the musical worlds of funk and Harrison Birtwistle aren’t as far apart as one might imagine. What newcomers would have made of this introduction is hard to say, but it was a neatly packaged and presented collection of gems.