Tuesday, February 11, 2014

"Cello goddess" drawn into the afterlife

Maya Beiser, dubbed a "cello goddess" by the New York Times, is heading for London to play David Lang's concerto World to Come next week. Here's my interview with a fascinating and ground-breaking figure whose effect on the contemporary repertoire for her instrument is simply immeasurable. The performance, with the BBC Concert Orchestra, is on 24 February at the QEH, booking here.

Inspired by the effect of 9/11 - the composer was living close to the World Trade Center at the time - the concerto portrays the idea of a cellist and her voice being separated then reunited in the afterlife. It was originally written for solo cello with multitrack recording; he then orchestrated it for use in a ballet. This will be its UK premiere. Lang, whose music has a dark brilliance to it that stands out a mile, won the Pulitzer Prize for his Little Match Girl Passion in 2008. Together with Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon he was one of the founders of the Bang on a Can collective, and Beiser became a founder member of the Bang on a Can All-Stars.

Although he has risen to be one of America's most often-played contemporary creators, and on these shores was for a time composer-in-residence for the Royal Northern Sinfonia, Lang's music is all too rarely heard in London. It's high time one of our leading orchestras gave a go to an American composer - especially one who has a chance of raising audience interest. It's time to examine British preconceptions about American music, too. However did this spiritual and deeply unsettling piece find its way into a programme by the BBC's "light" orchestra (or should that be "lite" today?) alongside the likes of Bernstein's Fancy Free?