What the Media is saying...
RAMEAU'S LES FÊTES D'HÉBÉ
This was a new collaboration between the Royal College of Music, Académie de l'Opéra de Paris and the Centre de musique baroque de Versailles which culminated in a Rameau UK premiere.
The RCM Baroque Orchestra and four singers from the College joined singers and dancers from the French institutions to give performances of Les Fêtes d'Hébé in Paris and London.
The UK premiere of Jean-Philippe Rameau's opera, directed by Thomas Lebrun and conducted by Jonathan Williams, took place in the RCM's Britten Theatre on 5 April 2017. It was the UK's first staged production of the composer's inventive and colourful opéra-ballet since the work first delighted Parisian audiences in 1739. The opera ran for two consecutive nights, delighting audiences and reviewers alike. Stephen Johns (RCM)
The Times *****
This charming production - wittily staged, vividly designed and meticulously choreographed - perfectly captured the elan of the original. What a blissfully shallow, sensual, surprising souffle of a show. I wasn't looking forward to two and three quarter hours of French baroque opera-ballet. And knowing that Rameau's Les Fêtes d'Hébé had waited 278 years for its UK stage premiere didn't do much to dispel my forebodings. There's usually a good reason why significant works by significant composers have been shunned for centuries.
After seeing this production, however - an entente-cordiale collaboration between students of our own Royal College of Music, the Centre de Musique Baroque in Versailles and the Académie de l'Opéra de Paris - I can't imagine what that reason is. The shame is that the show ran for only two nights. Richard Morrison
Classical Source **** Curtis Rogers
Evening Standard **** Barry Millington
Timber by Michael Gordon
Alun performed this contemporary piece written for 6 wooden Simantras as part of a collaboration between the Aurora orchestra and the RCM at Kings Place, London (UK Premiere - 14/9/2014), the Huddersfield Festival of Contemporary Music (22/11/2014), and at the RCM (28/11/2014).
All the performances of this fascinating piece were well received ..
...a fantastic performance..
...Fantastic performance. You'd never think that you could get such sounds from six short planks.
...amazing performance, Fantastic audience reaction! Visually stunning in the Town Hall (Huddersfield) ...Really enjoyed..
Hypnotic swells and metric modulations. Great stuff!
...What a brilliant audience response,, Everyone intrigued and up on stage with the musicians.
Amazing atmosphere created by 6 planks of wood!
UK premiere of this minimalist cult classic was gripping and different, not least because of the Ikea-style programme and white-suited musicians. Even before it started, this concert promised something different. First, the programme note looked like an Ikea booklet, showing the means of construction of the piece and its components (six lengths of 2x4, 12 percussion mallets, six pairs of hands, one composer, etc). Second, the players, led by the Aurora Orchestra's principal percussionist Henry Baldwin, and featuring the outstanding talents of Serge Vuille and Scott Lumsdaine alongside three talented Royal College of Music students, wore white - musicians always wear black. As promised, the music was indeed different. Composed in 2011 by the American minimalist composer Michael Gordon, one of the founders of the Bang on a Can ensemble, Timber has become something of a cult classic, although it's taken until now to receive its UK premiere. Each player has one of six strips of plain timber of varying lengths, each mounted on a simple trestle and lightly amplified. The different lengths produce different pitches, but depending on where and how the instruments are hit, the tonal qualities are more or less obscured. Indeed, the musical experience is characterised by the way each sound seems to hover on the edge of itself: rough pitches emerge from the natural timbres, producing occasional flurries of overtones, so that the listening focus is always shifting. And as the rhythmic cycles go in and out of phase, there's also a spray effect, a little like hearing rainfall splatter unevenly on a flat roof. Though bewilderingly difficult to play, the construction is simple enough, with two more static outer sections sandwiching a more dynamic and rhythmically volatile inner section. But the experience is gripping throughout, as if one is in the presence of unpredictable machinations of some benevolent but entirely inscrutable intelligence. It's bewildering and comforting at the same time, and considerably better than struggling with an Ikea instruction booklet. [Guy Dammann, The Guardian]
Minimalism is only truly minimalist when you can hear the maths. Its thrill lies in the aural equivalent of staring at the dots until large forms emerge. This is music in thrall to a process; its soul is self denial, its poetry rigour. In his piece Michael Gordon keeps the faith, and has produced a 21st century master piece,,, this UK premiere performance took 20 days of rehearsal: such dedication paid off ... The transparency of the engineering paid off [Classical-music.com]
The performers have a great deal to be proud of. It's not an easy thing to keep that level of concentration for almost an hour and to give such a piece of music its own life force [Planet Hugill]
Temazcal by Javier Alvarez
Alun performed this piece, written for solo maracas in 1984, as part of the Rest is Noise festival at the Southbank, London (October 2013).
Alvarez was heavily influenced by the Venezuelan flatlands where the role of the macaras surpasses that of mere cadence and accent punctuation to become a soloistic instrument in its own right. The piece involves mastering short patterns and then combining them with great virtuosity to construct larger complex rhythmic structures which are then juxtaposed against similar passages on tape (involving harp, folk guitar and bamboo rods) creating a dense polyrhythmic web.
... your performance of the Alvarez piece was incredible! Who knew so much emotion and pleasure could be shaken from a maraca? ... joy and delight at your virtuosity. (And the brilliant calypso twist after all the intense drama was very funny - in a good way.) Anyway, you were totally the highlight of the weekend.
... Rest is Noise (Post War World) ...Live performances for performers + electronics, showcasing pioneering techniques. The highlight for all of us was Alun's performance of Temazcal by Alvarez. My inner child giggled when Alun took the stage but after seeing this I'll never look at maracas in the same way again. Such an accomplished and physically powerful performance, which we were lucky to see not once but twice. [heloukee.wordpress]