Australian Chamber Orchestra launch Jonny Greenwood’s ‘Water’: “organic and persuasive”

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Since its premiere in Dublin on Thursday 2nd October, Jonny Greenwood’s new orchestral piece, Water, has been widely acclaimed. It was commissioned by the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and later performed by them in London and Birmingham, and then on an Australian national tour.  As ever the ACO were led by Richard Tognetti, and Greenwood’s haunting piece sought to capture the image of the final couplet of Philip Larkin’s poem ‘Water’, which describes a glass of water in which “any-angled light would congregate endlessly”.
The collaboration of Jonny Greenwood, Richard Tognetti and the ACO continues with eight performances on their US tour in early 2015. 
 
 
 
‘Time and again a little melodic phrase cascaded from the heights of the violins down to the depths of the basses, touching on different harmonies along the way ... Greenwood is developing a cunning sense of form, to go with the sharp ear for harmony and texture he’s always had.’
The Telegraph (Ivan Hewett), 5 October 2014
 
‘In commissioning Jonny Greenwood to work with them, the ACO and leader/director Richard Tognetti showed their openness to experimentation. The Radiohead guitarist had clearly drawn on their fluidity of movement for the piece that emerged. That movement was reflected, too, in the final title, Water, from Philip Larkin’s poem in The Whitsun Weddings. The effects of light bouncing off water created a distinct aura. Once again, strings were wrapped around pivotal instruments: two flutes and two Indian tanpura, the smaller of which was played by Greenwood himself, with Tognetti leaning in to deliver concertante violin lines. The tanpuras’ low, gently plucked droning gave the piece – in five interconnected sections – a constant deep resonance. Featuring amplified upright piano and keyboard, synthesising the sound of glockenspiel and celeste (nodding to the soundworld of Messiaen, yet without the use of ondes martenot), Greenwood’s soundscape was organic and persuasive. The rhythmic ostinati and the shimmering rise and cascade of scales, with rippling chromatic colour, created a more dynamic effect. Greenwood bowed as modestly as a novice; in fact, he is anything but.’
The Guardian (Rian Evans), 8 October 2014
 
‘The ACO seemed to tick all the right boxes ... Over the droning of Indian tampura this diatonically arranged soundscape evokes some of the ephemeralism of Arvo Part with the sound world of Olivier Messiaen. Deft use of flutes, amplified keyboards and violin effectively suggests images of the intersection of water, glass and light refracting.’
The Sydney Morning Herald (Martin Duffy), 26 October 2014
 
‘The title is inspired by a Philip Larkin poem whose final two lines – “And I should raise in the east a glass of water. Where any-angled light would congregate endlessly” – sat beautifully with the sound of the tampura and the movement of the music ... Greenwood and Tognetti, a devoted surfer, may not have bonded over outdoor pursuits, but they are clearly kindred spirits when it comes to adventurous music.’
The Sydney Morning Herald (Richard Jinman), 26 September 2014
 
‘Greenwood has created dense, luminous and often hypnotic sound clouds that are harmonically geared towards arpeggiated and stacked chromaticism and supported by various minimalist devices ... The tanpura’s twang adds mysticism to the sinewy mix, with the ACO’s strings finding depth in Greenwood’s soundwashes that few other chamber ensembles could match.’
The Australian (Eamonn Kelly), 28 October 2014
 
‘... a well-proportioned evocation of H20 in its different moods – the calm of regular drops, and the intensity and sometimes menace of its surges ... reveals an ear for delicate colour, though none of its individual sections outstayed its welcome.’
The Sydney Morning Herald (Peter McCallum), 3 November 2014