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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

PLANETARIUM: Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, Sufjan Stevens, Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House (28/05/2012)

This was the most extraordinary evening, totally enthralling, and living up to the reports I had heard about 'Planetarium' played in London. I knew Muhly's work a little, and love his minimalist somewhat atonic style. I did not know Dressner or Stevens, and I guess that is because I am about two generations too old.
The Australian Orava String Quartet began the evening by performing pieces composed by the three composers. Muhly’s Diacritical Marks was what I had expected, and knew I would love - ethereal. 
Nico Muhly
(Photo by Matthew Murphy
from the online biog

Bryce Dessner
(Press Photo by Rene Cervantes
from the Post Hoc Management site)

Stevens' Year of the Boar, Year of the Horse and Year of Our Lord were just wonderful pieces of music, more lyrical and beautifully interpreted by the quartet. Dessner’s Aheym was true to his own description of  'metal music for violins' and there was an electric thrill to the whole piece and a sense of awe at how Orava got themselves through. If and when published, this will be a must buy!
Sufjan Stevens
(photo from SMH online)
Planetarium was not exactly an update on Gustav Holst's Planets yet the sense of other-worldliness was quickly captured in what is a unique compositional collaboration - the Generation Y tribute to the greater context in which we live. Each of our planets was interpreted in music, perhaps based on some of our mythology about the Gods of Earth, and with somewhat naff concepts - Neptune being water, Mars about war, Venus about love. Put that to one side, and the ride for each individual piece was spectacular with images sprayed onto a giant orb hanging above the artists which reminded me of the psychedylic light shows we had at parties in the 1960s. Neptune, JupiterVenus, Mars, Mercury, Saturn, Uranus and Earth were each a delight with different styles - some with vocals, some just orchestrated. Even Pluto rated a mention.
This was a true 'rock' concert with classical overtones, exquisite work from Orava, a surprising depth of sound from seven trombones (how bizarre is that?), and merry quips between Muhly, Dessner and Stevens in between the suites.
Did I enjoy the experience ? You bet; bloody brilliant. Would I go again ? You bet. Will I buy the CD? No I will download from iTunes... I am up with the times...

Here is an official recording

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