Review: David Lang's The Little Match Girl Passion @ Kings Place
Thursday 22nd October 2015
I've been resisting tears at the thought of missing most of the Minimalism Unwrapped year long festival at King's Place in London. Although an important element of music history, which went on to influence popular music, few composers confess to being minimalist by nature. They seem to find it derogatory...
Finally getting around to the festival for three days of concerts, my trips begins with an evening of Bach and David Lang. With a quintet of incandescent singers, Bach's Jesu, meine Freude was what I need after a busy day of travelling. The German is very clear and the use of extracts from Romans in the Bible and Johan Franck are effective. The praising of Jesus and the abolition of sin is clear in the work, as these singers bring forth soothing, reverent melodies and harmonies.
The big selling point of the night is The Little Match Girl Passion by David Lang. Based on Hans Christian Andersen's story and elements of Bach's Passions, this Pulitzer winning score is striking in its execution. With just four singers, who all play light percussion (including a brake drum from a motor vehicle), this is a mysterious hour of theatre and music. Lang's composition is minimalist to a T, in one hurtling scene the group sing only in syllables, gradually revealing the phase: "I need you". The finale sees all four play there own percussion as a chilly conclusion is emerging, after the reveal of the girl's death.
It's was a challenge to get into the work, but when it kicked off, you became easily swayed by the gentleness and refinement of the whole thing. Due to its severe execution, the story is not clear, but we do develop pity for this young girl who freezes to death in the cold, clutching her matches. The Victorian costumes are also pleasing, adding to the spiky sense of theatre the work displays. Josh Armstorng as director and designer added this austere moodiness and crystal like atmosphere to events.
Music of pristine beauty.
Rating: 4 stars
The Little Match Girl Passion continues on tour to The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen on Saturday 24th October 2015. Minimalism Unwrapped continues at Kings Place, London till December 2015. Featuring music by Arvo Pärt, Gavin Bryers, John Tavener, Brian Eno, Terry Riley and many more.
- Review: H.M.S. Pinafore @ New Theatre
- Review: Half & Half: The Curry Musical @ WMC
- Review: A Doll's House @Sherman Cymru
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