With a dazzling new work for the London Sinfonietta, described by the Telegraph as 'funny, surreal and delicately poetic, all at once', Tom Coult has once again left a strong impression on audience and critics alike.
The French concept of l’esprit de l’escalier – that perfect retort or remark only formulated after the event – lends its name to Tom Coult’s Spirit of the Staircase for 15 players which was premiered in June by the London Sinfonietta under Martyn Brabbins. A multitude of brilliantly imagined situations are crammed into its 16-minutes, from raucous tutti passages to a subdued melody for the diaphanous mixture of bass flute harmonics and muted viola. Elsewhere, limping celesta and whirring percussion eerily evoke the winding down of a music box. A trombone is another key protagonist, and luminous chords from the ensemble’s assortment of keyboards and tuned percussion repeatedly interrupt with moments of stasis.
‘An insouciant musical game, untroubled by anything. The guiding spirit here was Boulez, especially in the cat-like percussive tread of the opening, but Coult soon proved he’s very much his own man, conjuring amusing dialogues from simple scale-like figures (thus the 'staircase' of the title)…Funny and surreal and delicately poetic, all at once.’
The Telegraph (Ivan Hewett), 2 June 2016
‘Spirit of the Staircase juxtaposed rapidly moving chains of glistening pitches with moments of stillness, led by a bass flute and a muted trombone, and full of bewitching sounds. None of it seemed to be contrived. The scheme was worked out with impressive assurance; everything was fresh, precisely imagined and made full use of what the Sinfonietta can do at its best.’
The Guardian (Andrew Clements), 3 June 2016
‘Coult’s witty, light-fingered Spirit of the Staircase was just as inventive instrumentally, but a lot more recognisably structured and frankly more fun. Still in his twenties, he’s a name to watch.’
The Times (Richard Morrison), 3 June 2016
‘The rapidly emerging British composer Tom Coult left a strong impression with Spirit of the Staircase. Alternating, though not in any formulaic sense, rapid “stairways” of fast notes, zipping up and down, with passages of near inaction, this had impressive individuality. Coult had drawn on the French notion of l’esprit de l’escalier, that brilliant, unsaid afterthought. The 15 expert musicians, including celesta and piano sometimes played simultaneously, harp, vibraphone and low woodwind, made light, often witty work of it.’
The Observer (Fiona Maddocks), 5 June 2016
The London Sinfonietta's concert, which also included works by Francisco Coll and Tansy Davies, was recorded for BBC Radio 3 for broadcast in September.
The score of Coult’s Spirit of the Staircase can be viewed here