The young vibrant entity that is Hugo Ticciati and his group O/Modernt surely represent something very positive about the potential future of classical musical performance. Evident joy and freshness for performing this stimulating programme carried all before it and both the new music they presented, as well as the more familiar, proved to be completely infectious.

Hugo Ticciati © Marco Borggreve
Hugo Ticciati
© Marco Borggreve

The two familiar pieces are mainstays of the minimalist repertoire, by John Adams and Philip Glass. Minimalism has always been subjected to quite violently mixed reactions, mainly in three camps. Those who find it refreshing, approachable and invigorating, are opposed by those who find it a sell-out and a feeble retrograde move away from a progressive musical style, courting favour with audiences above artistic truth. Then there are those that just find it boring and repetitive.

The first of these works played here was Shaker Loops by Adams, one of his first significant works and still one of his most radically minimal in its chamber form, as played here. From its tremulous opening to its tremulous close you are in a world of twisting layers and of spiralling patterns creating an effect of space and light and energy. There is really no other work in the composer's output that succeeds in combining repetition and variety so atmospherically. And Ticciati and Co found a particular zestful ease in the piece, a fresh air quality which places it in the line of Copland and Barber, without using any of their techniques.

Philip Glass' Symphony no. 3 is a work for strings not far away from the Adams in conception, but the overall effect is less radical and more compromising. Written in 1995 when the composer's early extremes of expansive repetition were being transformed into a classically poised late romanticism, it is an appealing work in four movements. O/Modernt were particularly successful in winkling out the delicate harmonic and melodic twists and turns that add spice to the work. The small string group of under 20 players never seemed thin and this leanness helped to clarify the textures.

The musical event of the evening was first UK performance of the 2nd Violin Concerto Angel’s Share Erkki-Sven Tüür. Angel Share is the evaporated liquid that is released from whiskey while it is being distilled that removes the bitterness from the final product. The composer believes that this maturing process can happen to our personalities and the spirit of hope for goodness permeates this work.

This most talented of contemporary Estonian composers, finds a way to be both original and accessible in his most recent works, and Angel Share is no exception. Its slow opening, with strong melodic material and soaring lines for Ticciati, an accomplished soloist here, led to more animated music, full of quirky rhythms and string effects, punctuated by the addition of a percussionist. A brief lull brings about a final section with a lighter touch, dancing rhythms and a final flourish from the percussionist, apparently imitating the sound of cork coming out of a bottle of whiskey.

A new work then of much merit and appeal, given here a most committed and technically accomplished performance. I hope that other violinists might take it on.

The other work in the programme was an example of another strand of performance that interests Ticciati, that of arrangements of music in imaginative ways, from the medieval to the present day. Johannnes Marmen’s arrangement of the most ancient polyphony Viderunt Omnes by Pérotin, acted as weird and wonderful prelude to the Glass symphony, with the players entering from every corner of the auditorium and improvising as they gradually came together to play this otherworldly, medieval version of minimalism. 

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