A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Friday, 13 July 2018

Anna Meredith & 59 Productions: Five Telegrams

The First Night of the Proms this year concluded with the premiere of a specially commissioned piece, Five Telegrams by Anna Meredith, themed around WWI communications and accompanied by a lights display. The five movements combined to around 22 minutes; it should be possible to find the video on iPlayer for the next few weeks, and who knows? Maybe it will be on YouTube after that.

The first movement was energetic, with lights that could have come out of a disco; it was fun, but I don't have any particular desire to hear it again. The second was quieter and more contemplative, with lights that were more obviously designed than random, but still leaving it unclear what actual value they were supposed to add beyond pretties. Perhaps there was something deep or interesting going on in the music; if so, I didn't catch it.

The third and fourth movements, however, were much better. The third, themed around the redaction of postcards sent home by WWI soldiers, had a driving flow with fun little lights going on and off in time; there was a rhythmic interplay between plucked strings and some Javanese-sounding percussion, with snatches of woodwind joining in. The fourth, themed around codes, had a similar energy but was much more showy about it.

The final movement was in some ways less enjoyable than the two which had preceded it, but nonetheless had clear musical merit. It portrayed the feelings of people experiencing the armistice, and after a truly wonderful opening with a cello solo built up towards a kind of climax, never clearly in either a major or a minor key: both present, neither overwhelming the other. It died away in what felt like a bit of a disappointment after twenty minutes of music, but was perhaps appropriate to the subject.

Overall I'd be very enthusiastic to hear the last three movements again, and for their sake would sit through the first two.

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