Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Review of 'Bosnian Voices', Buxton Festival

ENSEMBLE 10/10, Buxton Festival, St John’s Church, Buxton

Clark Rundell brought his Liverpool Philharmonic based new music group, Ensemble 10/10, back to Buxton for a memorable concert in the bright acoustic of St John’s Church.

I missed the world premiere they gave last November of Bosnian Voices, the new song cycle by Nigel Osborne (it was repeated a day later at St George’s Hall in Liverpool), so it was a discovery to hear it performed again in this year’s Buxton Festival. It’s a moving and genuinely beautiful work – an arrangement, as Osborne says, of original songs written by youngsters and others in the area of Srebrenica looking back 20 years to the horrific genocidal conflict that befell their country. He’s been committed to humanitarian work in that place for years and comes to the task with integrity, which has been reflected in his music already more than once.

There are seven songs, of different natures, all sung by a mezzo soloist – Florieke Beelen this time – with accompaniment of string quintet, flute, clarinets, horn and percussion, but Osborne’s claim ‘I’m just an arranger’ before the event is self-deprecation. He’s supplied a haunting opening and postlude with a long vocalise, and skilfully varies the style and instrumentation of the songs, ending the earlier ones, in particular in a mid-air way which is telling in itself.

There’s fun, too, in the ‘gipsy’ idiom of The Golden Ship, written with some Roma children among others, the nearly-English-pastoral background, complete with ruminative horn solo, to the one about riding a bicycle in the open air, and rattling rhythmic ostinati of the songs composed by pop group musicians.

There’s also desperately under-stated sadness in Time, Life and I, the song by women gang-raped during the war who still have seen no justice.

Some music lives because it captures the essence of a time-rooted reality, good or evil, and this is one of those. I hope it will live long.


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