Chamber Series Lakeside Nottingham, 4****: William Ruff


Graham Fitkin, Ruth Wall & Sacconi String Quartet

October 18 2018

Lakeside, Nottingham


Review: William Ruff


A fizzing programme of contemporary classical music at Nottingham’s Lakeside

Classical music lovers can’t complain about any lack of variety in the music they hear live each year.  But at least 99% of the composers responsible for it have one thing in common.  They’re all dead.

Not so Graham Fitkin, a former student of Nottingham University, who was back on Thursday evening to prove that he is very much alive, chatting amiably about the music (whilst not giving too many trade secrets away) as well as performing his piano pieces. It was the sort of evening which refreshed the spirit of musical adventure.

Of the nine pieces on the programme five were by Graham Fitkin himself.  He explained how his piano piece Running and Breathing was inspired by his own exercise regime, the changing rhythms of running, calculating the ratio of steps and breaths.

The mysteries of inspiration became even more mysterious when he went on to describe how the title of Resistances (again for solo piano) sprang from seeing the word written in his father’s hand on an ice cream tub.  His playing of such rhythmically intricate pieces in which a vast range of textures melt seamlessly from one to the other was as exhilarating as it was impressive.

The Sacconi String Quartet are clearly completely committed to Fitkin’s music, as made evident in their mesmerising performances of Recur and Servant, both pieces of startling energy and power, using minimalist techniques as a starting-point but achieving an entirely individual voice.

There were other composers featured too.  Gian Carlo Menotti’s Cantilena and Scherzo for harp and quartet combined lushness amd delicacy. The harpist Ruth Wall had also arranged Interlude 1 and Sonata 5 by John Cage for a harp transformed with elastic bands, erasers, Blu Tack etc, producing some extraordinary effects in the process.  She also joined her partner Graham Fitkin in a highly entertaining, train-journey-inspired words, movement and tapping start to the concert’s second half.

All this plus the Sacconi Quartet on brilliant, concentrated form in Philip Glass’s second String Quartet made for an unusually stimulating concert which the enthusiastic audience won’t forget in a hurry.

Sacconi String Quartet with Graham Fitkin (composer and piano) and Ruth Wall (harp)


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