The 10 best classical music live events of 2014
Nr.1 Delusion of the Fury - King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
Harry Partch’s music does not travel easily – it requires some or all of the specially made instruments the maverick US composer designed and built to play the 43-note scale he devised; collections of those creations remain few and far between. But German ensemble musikFabrik commissioned and mastered - with the same unfettered virtuosity they bring to all the conventional repertory they perform - a new set of instruments of their own.
The group will surely tackle more of Partch’s scores in coming years, but they began with a hugely ambitious collaboration with composer-director Heiner Goebbels – the first European staging of Delusion of the Fury, Partch’s strange theatre piece that is part opera, part ritual, and which fuses a story from the Japanese Noh tradition and a west African folk tale. First seen at the Ruhr Triennale last year, it came to the Edinburgh festival as the latest in a series of Goebbels’ shows to be seen there over the last two decades.
The result, with musikFabrik acting as chorus as well as playing the array of instruments which also functioned as much of the stage set, was a teasing synthesis of Partch’s weird and elusive drama with Goebbels’ own utterly distinctive theatricality, so seamless that it was sometimes hard to say where Partch’s work ended and Goebbels’ interpretation of it began. The text, part declaimed, part chanted, was like an incantation; the music, often rhythmically propulsive but sometimes bursting out in torrential, microtonal toccatas which musikFabrik delivered with astounding precision, seemed only loosely linked to anything in the 20th-century western tradition.
Relatively little of the text was audible, and only the bare outline of the two narratives, oriental and African, was graspable, but that hardly mattered. It was the sheer exotic beauty of it all that was so beguiling - music that seemed totally unclassifiable but which was performed with coruscating brilliance, combined with a ravishing, mysteriously magical staging..."
The Guardian (GB), 16 December 2014