Gigs, gigs, gigs: Dark Music Days, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Riot Ensemble, BBC Symphony Orchestra

by 5:4

It’s tempting to hope that 2022 might finally bring an end to the widespread disruption that has plagued concerts and festivals for the last two years. With that optimism in mind, there are some interesting events to look forward to in the coming weeks.

Most imminent, postponed from January and still taking its final shape, is the Dark Music Days. Iceland’s foremost contemporary music festival will now be happening from 1 March, featuring many of the country’s most renowned performers and groups, including Heiða Árnadóttir, Nordic Affect, Caput Ensemble, The Reykjavík Chamber Orchestra and Bára Gísladóttir. i’ll be there for most of the festival (strangely, there’s a 3-day gap between the main festival and its last two days, so i’ll sadly be skipping those), and some of the new works i’m especially looking forward to are: Scent & Sound games by Þóranna Björnsdóttir, a new violin concerto from Davíð Brynjar Franzson, the wonderfully-titled Music to accompany your sweet splatter dreams by Bára Gísladóttir, This is not a political piece by the always fascinating Birgit Djupedal, and Veronique Vaka’s Vanascere. Just as mouth-watering a prospect is a performance from Sóley Stefánsdóttir, whose superb album Mother Melancholia was one of my Best Albums of 2021. Information and tickets are available via the festival website.

Closer to home, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group’s next concert on 25 February will feature music by Frédéric Pattar, a figure more or less unknown in the UK. i don’t know his work well, but what i’ve heard so far has left me intrigued to experience more. Beyond this, on 17 March they’ll be pondering the question “Do we need a new compass?”, presenting Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire alongside new works by young composers Daniele Ghisi and Kaspar Querfurth. Perhaps most exciting of all, though, is a 100th birthday extravaganza for Xenakis on 29 May, featuring a plethora of his work alongside new pieces from Emily Howard, Samantha Fernando and Sergio Luque. There are additional performances of some of these concerts, and workshops too; full info on the BCMG website.

Then there’s Riot Ensemble, who in addition to a number of gigs and workshops in Birmingham, Wiltshire, Nottingham and London in the next few weeks, will be curating a day-long festival at King’s Place on 30 April. Riot Ensemble themselves will be kicking things off, followed by Boston ensemble Hub New Music (including the première of Riot helmsman Aaron Holloway-Nahum’s Things to Do in the Belly of the Whale), closing with Italian group L’Arsenale Ensemble providing a live score for F. W. Murnau’s superb film Nosferatu. Everything you need to know can be found on the King’s Place website.

If that’s not enough – and following two years of pandemical fucking around, it’s definitely not – the BBC Symphony Orchestra will be devoting a Total Immersion day to Frank Zappa on 19 March. The morning will feature Alex Winter’s documentary Zappa, and musicians from the Guildhall School will be performing Zappa’s The Perfect Stranger and music by Varèse, Webern and Stravinsky in the afternoon. There’ll be more Stravinsky in the evening; his Aldous Huxley Variations will be the upbeat to a sequence of orchestral Zappa: Pedro’s Dowry, Bob in Dacron, Sad Jane, Envelopes, Mo ‘N Herb’s Vacation, and finally Strictly Genteel. 2022 is already shaping up to be a fantastic year.

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