Max Richter: Recomposed / Memoryhouse


The Playhouse

August 24th



I ❤ Max Richter – have done since first hearing The Blue Notebooks about ten years ago. His music is like a soundtrack for everyday life, making commonplace actions, such as walking in the street, or driving, seem as if they are taking place in a film. Many labels have been applied to Richter’s music – postclassical, neoclassical, indie classical, postminimal – but none of these do the composer justice. He is a genuine renaissance man, the master of fusing almost all of the history of music, from classical via the avant-garde to electronica, into something completely new and contemporary. This concert, performed by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and conducted by André de Ridder, was a double bill of two Richter solo albums: Recomposed: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons and Memoryhouse, his debut.

It began with Richter’s brave take on Vivaldi, where he seemingly discarded 75% of the original music, but kept the main themes and leitmotifs. The retained music was then remixed with loops, clever repetitions and phasing, to mix the best of Vivaldi with minimalism and Richter’s signature lushness and depth of texture. Daniel Hope was outstanding as solo violinist, his fingers faster than any guitarist and the energy and passion he brought to the piece was immense.  The bass created by the cellists was another highlight, deep and rhythmical, and could easily have featured on a dance track from Richter’s early work with the likes of Future Sound of London. Enough Vivaldi was present for purists and the performance ended with the first of two standing ovations and pain inducing applause.

A massive changeover took place during the interval to set the stage for Memoryhouse, from a fairly intimate chamber orchestra to a full symphony orchestra, impressively done by technicians in half an hour. Richter’s debut solo-work tells a story of modern European wars and horrors and could soundtrack events happening now. It’s a beautifully melancholic and moving synthesis of ambient sonics, field recordings, poetry, strings, voice, piano and static. Cementing everything was Richter, centre-stage, hopping from laptop to piano to keyboard and back again – he clearly loved being surrounded by his own music. The sound of the entire concert was sublime, all elements audible among others, not one overpowering, leading your ear from layer to another. The female vocalist’s haunting melodies, in ‘Sarajevo’ in particular, captured the essence of the whole work: tragic and otherworldly, but grounded in brutal reality. Memoryhouse was only performed live for the first time last year and it works supremely well as a live performance, no doubt down to Richter’s mastery of arrangement. Judging by the longer standing ovation that followed, it looks set to become a staple of concert halls, and beyond, for the future.



Reviewer : Nicky Melville

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