hcmf// 2016: Hidden Gems

With tickets selling fast across the Festival – don’t despair! hcmf// Artistic Director takes you on a day-to-day guide through the ‘hidden gems’ to be discovered throughout hcmf// 2016.

Tickets for both concerts on the opening night (Friday 18 November) are in high demand, and rightly so with the UK premiere of composer/performer Jennifer Walshe’s acclaimed work for the Arditti Quartet EVERYTHING IS IMPORTANT, followed by the intriguing prospect of the founding father of European free improvisation performing with contemporary music powerhouse Ensemble Musikfabrik.

So we’re going to start our journey on Saturday 19 November.

Head down to Epicure Bar & Kitchen and share a cup of coffee with composer Claudia Molitor while she speaks about how she approached writing for the legendary Partch instruments, before crossing the road to Phipps Hall for the excellent Dublin Guitar Quartet making their Festival debut with Bang on a Can composer Michael Gordon’s Amplified .

For my money this concert-length work sits amongst the composer’s finest creations. Following a stunning performance in New York at the Bang on a Can Marathon, I asked the Quartet if they would hold the UK premiere for over a year to present the piece at Huddersfield. I am delighted that they agreed.

There are still a few tickets left – so act now – for Klangforum Wien’s concert on Sunday 20 November. While anticipation mounts for the UK premiere of Festival favourite Rebecca Saunders’ major new work Skin – featuring soprano Juliet Fraser – I would also steer you in the direction of the latest creation from Austrian composer Eva Reiter. Reiter is a fast-rising compositional voice in the European contemporary music scene, and someone that you will hear more of at future editions of the Festival.

hcmf// shorts (Monday 21 November) is often described as a festival within a festival – where you can see an eclectic and diverse range of work across all genres – and all absolutely free. This year is no different.

Let me pick out a couple of ‘must see’ events. Guitarist Raphael Roginski defies any attempt to categorise his work as it draws on African mysticism and Afro-American jazz. His solo work brims with energy and is absolutely mesmerising. Equally hypnotic is the recent work of electronic pioneer Eliane Radigue here writing acoustic music for a Quintet of her most trusted collaborators, to bring us the world premiere of OCCAM HEXA IV. The perfect way to end a packed day.

On Tuesday evening (22 November) the curious amongst you will surely head to Bates Mill for the first performance in the UK of the 11-piece Stone Orchestra, formed from the various strands of the Association for Stone Music, whose mission is ‘to connect instrument builders, composers, and musicians in order to rethink the sound of stones in music’!

Afterwards, head across the courtyard to the Photographic Studio to catch Swiss bassist Christian Weber with turntablist Joke Lanz. who are two-thirds of Sudden Infant. I think, however, it is as a duo that they are at their most innovative. Noise and damaged song structures combine with extreme virtuosity to create a cohesive and sublime concert experience.

Christian Weber & Joke Lanz

Be sure on Wednesday 23 November to pop into Huddersfield Railway Station and check out the multi-sensory experience that is White Cane: Salamanda Tandem, running at various times throughout the day.

Distractfold are fast gaining a reputation as one of the most accomplished new music ensembles in Europe, following their recent residency at Darmstadt. Their concert at hcmf// on Thursday 24 November is packed full of work from some of the most individual compositional voices around – including Berlin-based Hanna Hartman, the excellent Danish composer Christian Winther Christensen, and UK-based Costa Rican composer Mauricio Pauly.

When it comes to his music John Zorn does not give his blessing lightly – so when he agreed to work with composers/arrangers Sam Eastwood and Nikki Franklin on a big band realisation of his monumental Cerebrus: The Book of Angels Volume 26 – then this is praise indeed. The Spike Orchestra’s concert at Huddersfield (Friday 25 November)marks the first ever-live performance of the work, recorded earlier in the year for Zorn’s Tzadik label.

Trumpeter Percy Pursglove was last seen at hcmf// in 2014 as part of Evan Parker’s excellent ensemble. His concert on the closing weekend (Saturday 26 November) heralds Pursglove’s hcmf// debut as a leader and composer. Commissioned by the Festival to write a new work for trumpet, percussion, and voices – we are very excited about this one in the hcmf// office.

On the same Saturday (26 November), and rounding off the evening as part of a second live broadcast from this year’s hcmf// on BBC Radio 3, is the latest work from Berlin based – but Mirfield-born – Naomi Pinnock.  Part of an homage to the cult Japanese ensemble Sound-Space Ark which at various moments included amongst its personnel Toru Takemitsu and Jo Kondo, Pinnock’s Music for Europe is written for the Icelandic-German collective Ensemble Adapter who share similar instrumentation to the ARK.

On Sunday 27 November the Festival closes with one of the most surprising projects to have graced the festival circuit in 2016, American saxophonist Colin Stetson’s reimagining of Gorecki’s masterpiece Symphony No 3 aka the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs. Drawing on black metal, early forms of electronic music, and Stetson’s improvisations this will be a unique and unmissable performance of a classic work. Try to get a ticket before they disappear.