Connected to contemporary

TONY COOPER The London Sinfonietta – one of the world's leading contemporary music ensembles – makes a rare visit to Norwich on Tuesday, appearing in Norwich Cathedral in an enterprising programme entitled Connected.

TONY COOPER

The London Sinfonietta – one of the world's leading contemporary music ensembles – makes a rare visit to Norwich on Tuesday, November 23 (7.30pm), appearing in Norwich Cathedral in an enterprising programme entitled Connected. It is centred round a new work, From Egil's Saga, by Gavin Bryars, a 25-minute piece commissioned by Radio 3 and the Eastern Orchestral Board.

The orchestra will be conducted by Tallinn-born Olari Elts, who only last year formed his own contemporary music ensemble, NYYD, which focuses its attention on 20th-century music. Currently, he is principal conductor of the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra.

To complement From Egil's Saga, three further pieces by Bryars will be heard: arrangements of traditional Faroese music, In Nomine (after Purcell) and The Sinking of the Titanic.

The tragedy of RMS Titanic happened one thousand years after Egil's journey to England and almost as many miles south-west of Iceland and it is this powerful, historical event that fuelled Bryars' imagination and became the starting-point for the Sinking of the Titanic – a conceptual work of art in sound.

The composer describes it as a submarine fantasy and the work is made up of extracts of hymns and songs that were supposed to have been played on the ship the night it went down – at precisely 2.20am on April 14 1912.

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From Egil's Saga, however, connects the east of England with Viking history and tells the story of Egil Skallagrimsson, a Nordic hero. The 12th-century Icelandic saga of his life is beautifully rich depicting his many travels and battles, the tragedy of his sons' deaths and his descent into blindness.

From Egil's Saga will surround the audience with ethereal pre-recorded and live music, voices and low instrumentation to evoke this great and adventurous tale.

The work also uses elements of environmental acoustics – field recordings and recordings of the Faroese bass, Rúni Brattaberg – currently working as a soloist with the State Theatre of Mainz in Germany – singing in the caves of the Faroes.

Two pieces by the Estonian-born composer Arvo Pärt are also included in the programme. The first – If Bach had been a Beekeeper – is a work that sounds as thrilling and exciting as the name of the piece itself.

It opens in quite a storm as clouds of metaphorical bees (with a sting in their tails) expand into a dark mass of repeated notes before finally dispersing in a peaceful B flat minor coda. The second piece by Part is his setting of the Magnificat.

Also programmed is Valse Triste by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius as well as a trio of three-minute films entitled Notre Dame/NR5.

Keswick Hall Choir (choirmaster John Aplin) is also taking part and the recorded sound is under the direction of Chris Ekers, the sound designer for Sound Intermedia.

Tickets £14/£8 are available from Norwich Theatre Royal box office: P 01603 630000.

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