Julian Anderson’s residency at the Wigmore Hall got off to a flying start on 2 November with a day of performances featuring the composer’s ever-vibrant and increasingly renowned chamber and ensemble works. The programme featured pieces spanning the past 20 years of Anderson’s career – including The Bearded Lady, Sea Drift, Prayer, Tiramisu, The Comedy of Change – as well as the world premiere of Another Prayer for solo violin. A first-rate crop of performers –the Aurora Orchestra, Claire Booth (soprano), Paul Silverthorne (viola), Mark Simpson (clarinet), Cédric Tiberghien (piano) and András Keller (violin) et al. – came together for a day that reinforced Anderson’s position as one of today’s foremost composers .
The rest of Anderson’s Wigmore season includes two string quartet premieres: the London premiere of his String Quartet No. 1 Light Music with the Jack Quartet on 23 January, and the world premiere of his String Quartet No.2 (co-commissioned by Wigmore Hall and Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival) with the Arditti Quartet on 15 May.
‘…his oeuvre is developing into a treasure-chest’
‘If there were such a position as “London’s composer-in-residence”, it would surely belong to Julian Anderson – London-born but far from stereotypically English… It confirmed previous impressions of Anderson as a master-manipulator of sound – impossible to pin down to any style or school except his own, unashamed to acknowledge debts to the past within a fresh and piquant harmonic framework, and always leading the ear intelligently, but never predictably… his oeuvre is developing into a treasure-chest – serious, well-made and engaging as much to the senses as to the intellect.That was certainly the feeling left by The Comedy of Change… its lively fusion of gesture, rhythm and colour, alternating elemental pulsations with moody atmosphere... It’s a surprisingly sexy piece, full of collisions and consonances that seduce the ear. It could well be his masterwork.’
Financial Times (Andrew Clark), 4 November 2013
‘One of the leading composers of his generation’
‘One of the leading composers of his generation… Anderson is a composer who does stillness very well, and many of his pieces use concentrated resources. The lunchtime concert opened with his Prayer for solo viola, a work whose post-Bartókian riffs are the starting point for an exploration of all the instrument’s potential…The Four Piano Etudes have a delicate clarity… Although technically challenging, they are studies in sound more than exercises in virtuosity. Anderson summons up haunting sonorities again in The Colour of Pomegranates for alto flute and piano… Never afraid to go where other artists have gone, Anderson takes an episode in the libretto of The Rake’s Progress as inspiration for The Bearded Lady, a brilliantly playful piece for clarinet and piano that also find the pathos of Baba the Turk. Anderson’s early Seadrift is more immediately responsive to Walt Whitman’s words than Delius’s famous setting…’
The Telegraph (John Allison), 3 November 2013
‘…immediately absorbing in its every character, its every mood and colour’
‘However challenging his music, it is entirely distinctive in being immediately absorbing in its every character, its every mood and colour — and there are so many of them. Anderson is also blessed with the ability to speak clearly and succinctly about his own music — a real rarity among composers. So, in a sequence of contrasting pieces from the past 20 years of his career, he pinpoints attempting to hear familiar sounds as though they were newly discovered; being obsessed with dance; using simple rhythmic patterns in complex ways — and being fascinated by the music of eastern Europe — not as an ethnomusicologist or guru of “world” music, but as someone who deeply assimilates what he hears as invigorating influences on his own music. A violin solo called Another Prayer was vibrant with all these qualities… Anderson’s Tiramisu came next… The instrumentalists of the Aurora Orchestra split off into little solos, duos and trios before being drawn together, through zany, jazzy energies, into final song. And then Nicholas Collon directed his players in an enthralling performance of Anderson’s 2009 The Comedy of Change, a metamorphosis into musical time and energy of the idea of evolution in nature: unpredictable, as slow and beautiful as a Galápagos tortoise sweeping a trail in the sand — and as fast and feisty as a flight of birds, their wingbeats whistling through bow and breath.’
The Times (Hilary Finch), 4 November 2013
‘….keen technical address… sheer immediacy’
‘Each version [of Prayer], too, highlighted qualities that run throughout Anderson's works in whatever medium: its keen technical address, and content that draws some of its character directly from the means at his disposal. Whether in the sensuous nocturne The Colour of Pomegranates… or in the garish yet involving The Bearded Lady… the impact of specific properties of the instruments themselves played a significant part in the distinctiveness of his writing… But it was the sheer immediacy of Anderson's ensemble piece Tiramisu, and the almost strident punchiness of his substantial dance score The Comedy of Change, that augured most positively for his opera Thebans, which the English National Opera will premiere next May.’
The Guardian (George Hall), 4 November 2013