We had to wait until the end. of course. for Elvis Costello. He and II other musicians had been commissioned by the South Bank Centre to create works inspired by Purcell's viol Fantasies. In the first of two concerts at the Purcell Room which inter-leave these new works with Purcell's own, most of the six composers showed themselves to be either deaf to that inspiration or dumb in their attempts to respond to it. Costello describes himself as a new convert to the notated form. But his piece, entitled Put Away Forbidden Placings and scored for countertenor (Michael Chance) and four viols (members of Fretwork). showed a disarmingly sensi-tive and confident command of both voice and viol He had done his homework, too. and his nostalgic echoes of Purcell echoing Dowland echoing Byrd were skilfully and affectionately assimilated into a compact. bluesy. Janus-faced lovesong. Nostalgia was very much the order of the day. Perhaps this was deliberately so. for Purcell himself was writing in an already outdated medium; but perhaps, one began to suspect, for want of any other response_ Double-bass player Barry. Guys Buzz for five \lois was clearly the work of .a practitio-ner, and one of the great original crossovers at than Exploiting every technical pos-sibility of the ‘iol (and a few
near-impossibilities, Charles Mingus-style. as well). this was a winning little exercise in the good old avant-garde. It seemed genuinely excited by its medium and by the challenge of the exercise. which is more than could be said for Pout Ruders's earnest-ly sweet-sour Second Set of Changes on an old Danish folk tune, or Alessandro Solbiati's effortful (and con-ducted) Nameless Pod. or even John Woolrich's calculatedly arid and fragmented Farzia,qa.
Fantasy, and the search-ing, dating invention of a Purcell was just what these pieces lacked. Elena Ftrsova's Phantom showed a glimmer of those qualities in what was an honestly written, nicely whimsical fusion of a brief Arioso idea with a sweet, small cadence of Purcell's own. Benedict Mason chose to create a pretentious "installa-tion". about the sound of sound"; five players sitting motionless with their backs to the audience, and five min-utes' worth of quiet synthe-sized resonance that we were instructed to take seriously. Mason obviously takes him-self extremely seriously, as was painfully evident in yet another half hour' of round-table prattle which preceded the concert — most of it either inarticulate, incomprehensi-ble or totally inaudible.