[live review] max richter @ cadogan hall

September 18, 2010

Concert date: September 17, 2010

Max Richter performing at Cadogan Hall, 17th September 2010

Max Richter‘s recorded works are usually so self-contained, their introspection hermetically sealed like insects in amber, that one can be forgiven for wondering how live performance could possibly add to their emotional impact. For Infra, Richter’s latest album (reviewed here), the obvious answer is to experience it in the setting for which it was originally composed – it started life as a score for a ballet of the same name.

Last night’s performance of the album at London’s Cadogan Hall did not include Wayne McGregor’s choreography, though it was ‘semi-staged’ in that the hypnotic animated film Julian Opie contributed to the production was projected above the stage (see picture, above).

And it was captivating. The beauty of Infra‘s key musical themes became yet more aching, the tranquillity of the Journey interludes that bridged them more serene, as the sounds produced by piano, electronics and string quintet melted into the darkened auditorium. Infra somehow emerged a stronger work than it was before the performance began.

Max Richter performing at Cadogan Hall, 17th September 2010

Infra‘s 40 minutes comprised the second half of the concert. Before the interval the audience were treated to a selection from Richter’s catalogue (most potently from 2004’s The Blue Notebooks), seamlessly joined by recordings of crackling fire and rain as if to form a brand new work.

At the evening’s end, the audience’s response to Richter and his quintet’s performance – polite shouts of “bravo” and “more” from classical concert regulars, whoops and whistles from the contemporary crowd (and heartfelt applause all round) – revealed the sweet spot his music effortlessly occupies. The eternal and ephemeral as one.

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