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Report: Le tombeau de Rachmaninov World Premiere

Rob Edgar writes about the recent world premiere ofLe tombeau de Rachmaninov, a new work from Music Haven:

The composers are back from a trip up to Manchester for the world premiere of Music Haven's latest project for piano solo,Le tombeau de Rachmaninov which was performed by Noriko Ogawa at the Bridgewater Hall. The piece was commissioned by the hall for their Ravel & Rachmaninov series. It is designed as a companion to Ravel’s famous Le tombeau de Couperin and follows the same format, celebrating the life and works of the two composers featured in the series.

Whereas Le tombeau de Couperin is the work of one man, this latest piece is the work of several composers (one for each movement): Stephen Hough, Alan Mills, Peter Fribbins, James Francis Brown, Cecilia McDowall, and Takashi Yoshimatsu. It was widely remarked however that there was a real narrative thread which ran through the work despite the fact that the composers wrote their pieces in isolation, only sharing with each other after they’d written the final barline. To my mind - whether it was the gentle lilting Fugue (Alan Mills), the sinuous lament of the Forlane (Peter Fribbins), the elegiac Menuet (Cecilia McDowall), the fiery energetic Rigaudon (James Francis Brown), the sprightly Prélude (Stephen Hough), or the almost jazzy Toccata (Takashi Yoshimatsu) – what the work proved, is that there is great variety and personality to be found in intelligent tonality. Each of the composers could be loosely said to be part of the same ‘school’ but their unselfconscious and easy individuality was striking, perhaps amplified by their basic aesthetic similarities.

Ms Ogawa deserves a special mention for being so clearly able to bring out each composer’s voice whilst ensuring an overarching coherence. The care and attention to detail she gave to each bar whilst learning the work was a rarity resulting in a performance that sounded as though it had been in her repertoire for years. It caused Alan Mills to remark that “for a world premiere, it really doesn’t get any better than that”.



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