Monday, 7 December 2009

Leif Ove Andsnes - Pictures Reframed/Errollyn Wallen - Christmas Concert

I used to be a bit of an evangelist for classical musicians experimenting with visuals to enhance their performances. It was the premise of a South Bank Show I made about the baroque ensemble Red Priest a few years ago. They were keen broaden their appeal to a younger generation of listeners and so they got in some blokes to spice up their stage show with dry ice, goth-icky costumes, moody lights and an exploding recorder (I exaggerate a little). It fell flat on its face. I had always assumed Red Priest would have had a better chance of success had they spent more time and money on it. But after seeing Leif Ove Andsnes's Pictures Reframed at the QEH on Saturday I'm not sure these kinds of classical/multi media projects live or die by the size of the budget thrown at them (and I'm assuming Robin Rhode's accompanying film for Pictures at an Exhibition didn't come cheap), they just die because they're not necessary. All the way through Andsnes's excellent account of Mussorgsky's work my attention was constantly being pulled in a direction I didn't want it to go in. I'm sure Rhode's film images were full of clever references to Pictures but I wasn't getting any of them and what's more, I didn't really care. When you get as good a player as Andsnes up on stage any extra biz is completely superfluous.

A very well groomed West London crowd turned up to the new Theatre 34 to see Errollyn Wallen present its debut as a concert venue. She ran through some of her songs old and new, helped by a string quartet, a guitarist and a couple of dancers. She is an exceptional composer whose skills as a pianist take her to places most other songwriters probably don't know exist. Thoughtful, melodic and funny she is one of music's best kept secrets - well to the mainstream anyway. But just how do you categorise someone as versatile and quirky as Errollyn? I can't see the mainstream embracing her yet, or should that be vice versa?

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