A new MD
Today I have been rehearsing with the EMG, the Exeter-based symphony orchestra that performs with chorus every couple of years. This is the group with which I have sung in, and much enjoyed, some of the biggest and most exciting works in the repertoire: Mahler’s 8th Symphony, Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony, and Britten’s War Requiem.
A major reason I loved those concerts so much was their inspirational conductor, Marion Wood. She has now moved elsewhere, so today was my first sight of her successor Leo Geyer. How would he measure up? First impression: he’s not inspirational in the sense Marion was, but he does have a good deal to offer, and I expect to go on enjoying EMG events.
This is a lesser programme for chorus than the others: we’re only in half the programme. The main choral work is Geyer’s own version of Elgar’s Enigma Variations, drawing on text from The Music Makers – a work which also shares some musical material with the Enigma.
Having spent time on this piece, I was curious to find out more about Geyer’s track record, so I googled. He seems to be a musician of some distinction: his conducting includes Covent Garden as well as his own ballet company, and he’s won a serious-looking composition prize. This is a young man making quite a name for himself!
What about his composition? I watched his prize work on youtube (here) and found myself much enjoying it. Though I doubt I’d have liked it so much if it had been just the music without the visual aspect, which presents a circus-style ringmaster and clowns. The Darmstadt tradition of squeak-bang “modern” music (as exemplified by Stockhausen and Boulez) is strong in there, but at the same time it’s playful and exciting, and ever-lively. Among established works, Weir’s Night at the Chinese Opera might be a comparison. And youtube’s recommendation of Pierrot Lunaire as a followup suggests a century’s worth of tradition behind it.
Caveat: after a day with EMG I’m on a bit of a high, and my critical judgement may be mildly impaired.