...uncannily moving, its emotional reach unexpectedly deep

At Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Ether 09 festival, mainly devoted to innovative pop, ended with a concert in which the London Sinfonietta and Sound Intermedia were joined by the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, conducted by the young and porcelain-pretty Estonian Anu Tali, in a revival of Heiner Goebbels’s Songs of Wars I Have Seen, which was premiered here in 2007.

Goebbels (b1952) has affiliations with innovative pop, with jazz and electronica, with all manner of styles; and, indeed, doesn’t really have one of his own. What he has, outstandingly, is a gift for inevitable synthesis, and a musico- ­theatrical inventiveness that constantly finds fresh fields of action.

This 50-minute piece is a colonisation of oral history. Ordinary folk remembering wartime experiences in homely but telling detail are represented by the period strings, all women (Sinfonietta brass and percussion to the rear were male), taking turns to read from Gertrude Stein’s book Wars I Have Seen against an electronically modulated background. There are fetching baroque interspersions (pieces by Matthew Locke) and standard lamps for period decor.

At the end, everyone contributes to a soft, percussive ringing and the trumpet (Paul Archibald) sounds a long recessional. The piece is uncannily moving, its emotional reach unexpectedly deep.

Paul Driver
The Sunday Times (GB), 3 May 2009