The Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.

Music

Café Oto, London E8 – Evan Parker, John Edwards and Eddie Prevost, 7 August

Evan Parker, Eddie Prevost and John Edwards launch their new trio CD – the first release in Eddie Prevost’s Meetings with Remarkable Saxophonists series. Legendary British saxophonist Evan Parker’s trademark sound is filled with circular breathing and multiphonics, stretched over trance-like lines. He has fuelled the free music scene since the 1960s, both here as well as through his European wanderings – famously contributing to Peter Brötzmann’s 1968 Machine Gun session. Parker is joined by the formidable technicians, bassist John Edwards and percussionist Eddie Prevost (founder of AMM), who have long pushed the boundaries of the musical imagination.

Theatre

Noël Coward Theatre, London WC2 – Julius Caesar, 8 August – 15 September

The RSC’s new production of Julius Caesar is transferred to the Noël Coward Theatre this August as part of the World Shakespeare Festival. Newly appointed RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran shifts Shakespeare’s political thriller to post-colonial sub-Saharan Africa, acquiring dark contemporary undertones. The company includes Jeffery Kissoon as Caesar, Paterson Joseph as Brutus and Cyril Nri as Cassius.

Talk

Queen Elizabeth Hall, London SE1 – Marina Abramovic: The Lecture For Women Only, 5 August

Performance artist Marina Abramovic has designed her latest project, The Lecture For Women Only, entitled The Spirit In Any Condition Does Not Burn, for an exclusively female audience. The gendered format comes as an attempt to explore concepts of femininity and men are not being admitted to the auditorium. Abramovic, most famous for her 736 hour MoMA retrospective The Artist is Present, is hosting the lecture as part of Antony Hegarty’s 2012 Meltdown festival.

Art

Tate Modern, London SE1 – Tania Bruguera: Immigrant Movement International, 7 – 15 August

Cuban artist Tania Bruguera arrives at the Tanks at Tate Modern, a new space devoted to live art, to take up a three week residency for her art project Immigrant Movement International. Bruguera’s work aims to be an artist-initiated socio-political force exploring the nature of citizenship and values shared by immigrants. Lawyers, politicians and member of the public are drawn into debates around the immigrant experience today.

Film

Purcell Room, London SE1 – Diamanda Galás: Schrei 27, 3 August

Diamanda Galás’s film Schrei 27 - an emotive and critical exploration of the torture of an individual in isolation - produced with director David Pepe, was premiered in 2011. Here Galás gives a lecture on her work as an activist and artist, followed by a screening of Schrei 27.
 

Evan Parker plays at Cafe Oto (Photo: Andy Newcombe)
BBC/Chris Christodoulou
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Proms 2016: Violinist Ray Chen was the star of a varied show

The orchestra soaked up his energy in Bruch's first violin concerto to end on a triumphal note. 

Music matters, but so does its execution. This was the lesson of a BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus programme which combined both a premiere of a composition and a young violinist’s first performance at the Proms. 

The concert, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis, opened with Tchaikovsky’s symphonic fantasy The Tempest, a lesser-known sibling to his Romeo and Juliet overture. The orchestra got off to a fidgety start, with some delayed entries, but fell into line in time for the frenetic chromatic runs that drive the piece. The end, a muted pizzicato, was suitably dramatic. 

Another nature-inspired piece followed – Anthony Payne’s composition for chorus and orchestra, Of Land, Sea and Sky. Payne drew on his memory of watching of white horses appearing to run across water, as well as other visual illusions. At the world premiere, the piece began promisingly. The chorus rolled back and forth slowly over scurrying strings with an eerie singing of “horses”. But the piece seemed to sink in the middle, and not even the curiosity of spoken word verse was enough to get the sinister mood back. 

No doubt much of the audience were drawn to this programme by the promise of Bruch violin concerto no. 1, but it was Ray Chen’s playing that proved to be most magnetic. The young Taiwanese-Australian soloist steered clear of melodrama in favour of a clean and animated sound. More subtle was his attention to the orchestra. The performance moved from furious cadenza to swelling sound, as if all players shared the same chain of thought. Between movements, someone coughed. I hated them. 

Ray Chen in performance. Photo: BBC/Chris Christodoulou

Chen’s playing had many audience members on their feet, and only an encore appeased them. It was his first time at the Proms, but he'll be back. 

The orchestra seemed to retain some of his energy for Vaughan Williams’ Toward the Unknown Region. Composed between 1904 and 1906, this is a setting of lines by the US poet Walt Whitman on death, and the idea of rebirth.

The orchestra and chorus blended beautifully in the delicate, dark opening. By the end, this had transformed into a triumphal arc of sound, in keeping with the joyful optimism of Whitman’s final verse: “We float/In Time and Space.” 

This movement from hesitancy to confident march seemed in many ways to capture the spirit of the concert. The programme had something for everyone. But it was Chen’s commanding performance that defined it.