New Music – The Fantastic Mr Ferneyhough

Brian Ferneyhough and Irvine Arditti

What is often referred to as “New” music can be challenging, and Brian Ferneyhough (above right, with the great Irvine Arditti of the eponymous Quartet) a man who is perhaps frighteningly known as the Father of New Complexity, produces work which is no exception to this. However we had the opportunity last week to hear an outstanding concert of his works in the surprisingly intimate surroundings of the Chancellor’s Hall at Senate House in London.

The big ticket item is this Saturday’s BBC Symphony Orchestra’s “Total Immersion: Brian Ferneyhough” concert at the Barbican – but last Wednesday was an event not to be missed and whilst not trailed on Radio 4’s Today programme like its Saturday sibling, its very clandestine nature took me back to the old days when, with a particular brand of sensation-seeking, my brother and I would set off for obscure halls to see the masters of the genre – Stockhausen, Ligetti, Xenakis et al – often personally conducting their own pieces to a crowd so small that it felt more like a personal present from the composer and ensemble.

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