Proms 2015: Gary Carpenter – Dadaville (World Première)

by 5:4

Right, let’s get (belatedly) cracking. For a few years, the annual Proms season began with a première, which was nice but reduced the piece (or, at least, reduced composers’ aspirations) to a mere curtain-raiser. Gary Carpenter‘s Dadaville, which received its first performance in the opening Proms concert last week, did not begin the concert (that task fell to Nielsen), but the piece would in fact have worked wonderfully well as a concert-opening overture, but one with considerable chops and ambition.

Taking both its title and essence from Max Ernst’s 1920s artwork of the same name, Dadaville, in the moment, appears to be characterising itself as yet another short ride on yet another fast machine. But it’s more than that. If anything, the bristling activity that bookends the piece seems less about momentum than energy, practically crackling with arcs and sparks emanating from its restless core. Initially irregular and unpredictable, sharp accents firing out seemingly at random, it soon falls into regularity and a pugilistic motivic outburst. This is picked up in its later incarnation, rising through the winds before splintering into a gyrating, funky dancefloor of elated mayhem coated in melodic brass hoo-hahs and fripperies, culminating in a sizzling, brash burst of fireworks (both imagined and real – a first for the Proms?). That ‘essence’ of Max Ernst’s Dadaville i mentioned before is the work’s inherent fragility, which for Carpenter becomes an “ambivalence” captured in a startlingly contrasting central episode. Hinted at in the work’s opening moments, Carpenter expands them into a soft but wide, lyrical vista, tinged with Messiaen-like ecstatic radiance. It lasts barely a minute, but this passing glimpse into something eternal transforms Dadaville into very much more than mere ephemera, matching elation with elevation.

The world première of Dadaville was given by the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo. Once again, you can express your own views about this and each new piece using the poll below, which will remain open until the end of the season.

The audio has been removed as a commercial recording is now available.


Gary Carpenter - Dadaville
  • Loved it! (37%, 19 Votes)
  • Liked it (35%, 18 Votes)
  • Meh (14%, 7 Votes)
  • Disliked it (8%, 4 Votes)
  • Hated it! (6%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 51

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