The London Sinfonietta presented a fascinatingly diverse programme for this concert, one of three themed ‘Remix’ evenings at King’s Place in collaboration with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Both ensembles are renowned for their expertise in music of a particular period, but this evening the stylistic boundaries were rather more blurred.

The practice of ‘borrowing’ another composer’s themes was commonplace in the Baroque era, in fact Handel was notorious for doing so. The London Sinfonietta’s programme showcased the works of 20th and 21st century composers who created imaginative reworkings of music from the past, some departing much further from the originals than others. The programme was carefully thought out, divided into four distinct sections. The first part concentrated entirely on works derived from the music of Purcell. These ranged from Kurtag’s relatively straightforward piano duet arrangement to more adventurous transformations.

The Sinfonietta strings played with a pure, non-vibrato tone in the sombre canon arranged by Colin Matthews. Here was an interesting example of stylistic fusion: the unfinished Fantasia by Purcell, begun as a simple Baroque arrangement is completed in a more modern idiom, lending the piece a duality and sense of the unexpected.

In his introductory talk, pianist John Constable described his vision of these arrangements, comparing them to ‘seeing Purcell through dirty, broken glass’, and, in the version by George Benjamin (featuring the bell-like tones of the celeste), like ‘looking out at the falling snow through a frosted window-pane’. The mysterious, whistling string harmonics did much to add to the otherworldly atmosphere here.

A further piano duet from Kurtag, (music originally by Machaut) was notable for its simultaneous use of extreme registers, a technique that recalls the piano writing of Shostakovich. The two Birtwistle arrangements had a rustic, folk-like simplicity that was distinctly unlike what listeners have come to expect from Birtwistle. The jaunty rhythms and addition of flute, xylophone and tubular bells gave the music a bright, ringing quality.

The one world premiere of the evening was Anna Clyne’s arrangement of Britten’s ‘Hymn to the Virgin’, featuring pre-recorded string parts alongside the live instruments. Like Colin Matthews in the first half, what opens as a deceptively simple transcription soon evolves into a more complex reworking, with long, winding lines creating a kaleidoscopic canvas of sound.

The highlight of the evening was surely Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne for cello and piano (an arrangement from his ballet Pulcinella), including a gorgeous lilting cello melody in the Serenata movement that is later taken up by the piano. The suite was performed with great panache by cellist Timothy Gill, with exciting rhythmic interplay between the two instruments.

This was a programme full of surprises, and with music by Brahms and Puccini, unfamiliar territory for the London Sinfonietta as Constable pointed out. The evening breathed new life into old music through added instrumental colour, demonstrating (as suggested by composer Thomas Adès) that we can still learn much from music of the past as a stimulus for music of the present.