Gala Concert to celebrate 75 years of UMP – Concert Review

St John’s, Smith Square – 15th April 2002

The Evening Standard, 15th April 2002

Catalogue of successes for entente cordiale

IT BEGAN as a venture to disseminate French music in the United Kingdom and what was then the British Empire. Now, 70 years after its founding, United Music Publishers has expanded its roster of composers beyond Faur, Ravel, Messiaen and the rest to include such major British talents as Simon Bainbridge, Diana Burrell, Michael Finnissy, Stephen Montague and many more. Friday night’s gala concert was a splendid showcase of music from the UMP catalogue. It began with Messiaen’s Le Vent de l’Esprit from the Messe de la Pentecte, played fittingly by Naji Hakim, who is Messiaen’s successor at the Eglise de la Trinit in Paris. Hakim is himself a UMP composer and the third movement of his Violin Sonata, a vigorously choreographed rondo, was brilliantly played by Marion Delorme and the composer. An ad hoc ensemble calling itself United Brass, with Philip Mead at the piano, adroitly negotiated the terrifying but thrilling metallic textures of Burrell’s Gold. Terrifying in a different way, but also hugely invigorating, was Montague’s apocalyptic vision Behold a Pale Horse, in which the brass ensemble was pitted (in this performance) against the organ (Quentin Thomas) at the other end. The solo clarinet is pushed to its limits and beyond by Roger Redgate in +R, but Andrew Sparling rose fearlessly to the challenge. Betsy Jolas’s Trio Sopra Et Sola Facta was subtly realised by Double Image, and the Vasari Singers, after a shaky start in the taxing Canteloube Bailro, gave admirably refined accounts of chansons by Poulenc and Ravel.

Barry Millington


© Jeremy Backhouse