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CIMF / Modern American music draws a big crowd

Bulgarian guitarist Pavel Ralev. Photo: Peter Hislop

Canberra International Music Festival / Concert 11, American Modern. At James Fairfax Theatre, NGA. May 4. Reviewed by LEN POWER.

There was clearly a huge interest in modern music as the near-capacity crowd enjoyed a concert of works by the America composers Steve Reich and Meredith Monk, and Australian-Dutch composer Kate Moore.

Commencing with Reich’s 1972 composition Clapping Hands, Roland and Florian Peelman gave an excellent performance using only their hands.  In this work, two people clap the same rhythm. One performer gradually shifts the pattern one fast beat at a time, 12 times consecutively, until they come back together. The resulting phasing is mesmerising.

Florian and Roland Peelman. Photo: Peter Hislop

Roland Peelman, after pausing momentarily for his hands to recover from the clapping, then played Kate Moore’s 2008 work, Spin Bird, on piano. This reflective work of repeating sequences was beautifully played.

Bulgarian Pavel Ralev then played Reich’s Electric Counterpoint on acoustic guitar. This minimalist composition in three movements for guitar was played against 12 pre-recorded layers. The sonic impact of this work was astounding and much of the joy of listening to this work was enhanced by watching Ralev play it.

Roland Peelman, piano, and Florian Peelman, viola, followed with Meredith’s Monk’s 1981 work, Gotham Lullaby. This minimalist work with its appealing melodies was given a fine performance.

The final work of the concert was Reich’s 1988 work, Different Trains. It was performed by the Dudok Quartet Amsterdam. In this work for string quartet, tape and recorded speech, Reich compared and contrasted childhood memories of his train journeys between New York and California in 1939-1941 with the very different trains being used to transport European children to their deaths under Nazi rule.

The Dudok Quartet mentioned that the playing of this work coincided with the May 4 Dutch Remembrance Day when victims of World War II were commemorated. The quartet played against their own layers of three-string quartet recordings, producing an atmospheric experience.

Hearing some of the most iconic works of the late 20th century played with extraordinary skill by these renowned artists was a memorable event.

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