Adelaide Festival Review: Tectonics Program 1

Ilan Volkov Tectonics

Ilan Volkov’s Tectonics is a program of new orchestral commissions, hard‐core experimental electronica, improvisations from pioneering & modern-day composers.

Ilan Volkov Tectonics
Presented by Adelaide Festival in partnership with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Reviewed 09 March 2014

Tectonics is the vision of curator and conductor, Ilan Volkov, and the program of new orchestral commissions, hard‐core experimental electronica, improvisations, and pioneering and modern-day composers, was designed to challenge orchestras and audiences alike.

The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra had me from the opening note of David Ahern’s poignant and treacherous orchestral piece, After Mallarmé. In an almost full Grainger Studio, the engrossed audience listened intently as the shimmering strings, harmonics and flutter-tongued flute heralded the commencement of this most interesting of music festivals.

Two world premieres and Festival commissions were next: the first, Elastic Band by Elena Kats-Chernin and Jon Rose (soloist). The composition and Rose’s performance were phenomenal. From the staccato beginning to bow air swipes and syncopated percussion, the whimsical aspects had patrons stifling laughs, and orchestra members smiling. Rose employed just about every violin technique imaginable and some you’ve probably never thought of; his serene face mismatching his output. A masterfully constructed piece with dreamlike harmonics, double bass sounding more like wind, and a percussive finale was received with elation by Rose and Kats-Chernin (attending).

The second premiere, Listening Styles by Matthew Shlomowitz (attending), performed by the ASO and soloist Eugene Ughetti sounded like a fabulous melange in a dance hall, contrasted with stark silences. In this most dynamic of pieces, percussionists duelled and chatted with drums, as hints of swing and rumba peeked through. The seven-note theme was soloed (in various guises), by pretty much everyone, and will stay with me for a long time. Ughetti stood out, not just for his yellow shirt; his lightning fast cymbal stops and energy a highlight.

Soundstream, aka Harley Gray (double bass), Judith Hamann (‘cello), Anna McMichael (violin), and Gabriella Smart (piano), then gave an intense and disarming performance of Morsima-Amorsima composed by Iannis Xenak.

The extraordinary Aki Takahashi performed solo piano works. Cinque Incantesimi by Giacinto Scelsi, the world premiere of Finale by Giuliano d’Angiolini, Mists by Xenakis, and Un Adieu by Scelsi, the latter my favourite; Takahashi divining it’s serene and sombre beauty.

Following this, a male-heavy ensemble of brass and percussion gave us I presagi by Scelsi, notably featuring a wind machine. The film-esque Auroura by Xenakis flaunted brilliantly directed dynamics, and Anagamin also by Scelsi cleverly illustrated something akin to serenity-on-a-knife’s-edge.

Earplugs were issued for the piece, Stereo/Mono by David Ahern. Composed for “woodwind”, the saxophone playing Jim Dendy with his back to the audience, produced ear piercing feedback, percussion and reverberation with the collaboration of clever phonometrician, Byron Scullin.

Akrata by Iannis Xenakis redefined grim, before the final piece of program one: New work for guitar and ensemble by composer and soloist Oren Ambarchi. This was a fantastic delight of surreal resonance, performed scoreless, and with unorthodox conducting from Volkov. Highlights include bow on cymbals and ethereal guitar sounds supporting five double bass and ensemble layers.

Many of the performances felt like the audience were privy to late night jam sessions by some of the best musos around. Lighting and ambience can be thanked in part for this, and the technical crew did a stellar support job. The credit for vision must go to Ilan Volkov; a great unifier across countries, cultures, and musical tastes, whose professionalism and ability is matched only by the care he demonstrates for his collaborating artists. He has brought us the very best of live Festival thrills.

Pause now, for the re-stringing of bows. There’s plenty more where that came from in the 9 hour conclusion.

Reviewed by Gordon Forester

Venue: Grainger Studio, 91 Hindley Street, Adelaide
Season: 10-11 March 2014
Duration: 5 hours
Tickets: $30 – $49
Bookings: Book through Bass online or phone 131 246


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