Decibel at Birmingham Conservatoire

Last Thursday I went along to the Decibel concert at Birmingham Conservatoire. Having not heard them play before, I was unsure what to expect, but it turned out to be a rather good concert full of premieres!

Here are my thoughts on a few of them: Michael Wolters latest piece Deutsche Volksweisen was a zany take on some German Folk Tunes. At the start I was a bit dubious with the eccentric pastiche feel, but the theatrical element of the recorder player entering in full folk regalia and dancing to keep time changed the appeal of the piece and became a thread which brought the folk/12-tone/musical theatre elements together.

Fumiko Miyachi‘s CR24 was billed as a power ballad, and I got that, but it just didn’t seem to sit right with me. It became ‘powerful’ but somehow seemed a little strained towards the end, like its battery was dying. Other people did seem to enjoy it, however, so maybe it was just me!

My favourite piece of the night had to be James Tenney’s Never Having Written a Note for Percussion which was mind blowing, played by the whole ensemble. The one thing that grated with me was that the clarinet didn’t quite blend towards the final quarter of the piece, but this is understandable in such a quiet texture.

Ed Bennett‘s Magnetic was a beautiful piece for bass clarinet and piano, executed well by both players. The bass clarinet was a good choice for the part as although it could probably have been played on a Bb clarinet, the breathiness and timbre of the bass clarinet in that register really worked well. Bennett’s Stop-Motion Music did exactly what it said in the refreshingly unpretentious programme note ‘This piece should make you want to punch the air’. Yes.

Overall the concert had a brilliant atmosphere and some quality playing from Decibel and was concluded with a wacky birthday tribute to Laurence Crane, which sent everyone home in a jolly mood!

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