Just after sunset in The Lizard, Cornwall. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Friday Arts Diary | 19 September 2014

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.

Festival

Little Big Gig, Kynance Cove, Cornwall
Friday 19 September - Monday 22 September

This is a quirky, family-friendly music and ale festival set on The Lizard - the peak of southern England in Cornwall - overlooking the Atlantic. With music from every genre - jazz, rock, soul - everyone is sure to find something. The location allows a full 3-day festival experience with beautiful sights to compliment. 

Theatre

64 Squares, New Diorama Theatre, London
Opens 23 September

This upcoming play is adapted from the novel The Royal Game by the 20th century Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. Set in the late 1930s, the world’s greatest chess player is challenged by an odd newcomer. As the game unfolds, move after move, the mysterious stranger reveals his dark past. An exciting tale of identify and madness moving over a board of 64 Squares.

Music

Game Music Connect, Southbank Centre, London
24 September

This one-day conference is for aspiring and professional composers of all backgrounds as well as those interested in learning about the art and craft of creating today’s cutting-edge video game soundtracks. You don’t need to be a composer or industry professional to be a part of Game Music ConnectFans of soundtracks and, indeed, anyone with an interest in music or games is more than welcome to attend any Game Music Connect event.

Film

Encounter’s Festival 20/20, Bristol
Tuesday 16th September - Sunday 21 September
 

Connecting the past to the future, Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival celebrates short film from its origins as an analogue medium right up to the expanded worlds of live audio-visual, immersive and interactive digital cinema. The 2014 festival continues to revolve around two main venues - the Watershed and Arnolfini - and extends at the weekend to include the Cube Microplex and Harbourside. There will also be opportunities to participate online. The festival aims to push the boundaries of cinematic expectation, explore social and technological film futures, reimagine the analogue/digital fusion and debate the post-medium condition of film.

Art

London Design Festival
Tuesday 16 September - Sunday 21 September

The London Design Festival is an annual event, held to celebrate and promote London as the design capital of the world. Building on London’s existing design activity, the event was launched in 2003 to create an annual event that would promote the city’s creativity, drawing in the country’s greatest thinkers, practitioners, retailers and educators to a deliver an unmissable celebration of design.

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.