Herbert Reviews: Borough New Music 

Ladies and gents, Herbert has found a gem.  

Are you ready? Ok:


Borough New Music

Borough New Music | Follow here

What? Free (1 hour) lunchtime concerts every Tuesday 1pm showcasing contemporary classical music.  

9 ‘Series’ of music from October ’17 - June ’18   

122 composer | 49 performers | 37 premiers  

Fulll info on the 9 series here

Where? St George the Martyr Church, Borough High Street, London SE1 1JA

Closest Tubes: Borough / London Bridge

On Tuesday 31st October,  Herbert went to the last performance in Series 2 (October), which was curated by Artistic Director, Clare Simmonds.  

On the menu for today were six pianists - all prizewinners from The Trinity Laban John Halford Piano Composition Competition. What makes this competition special is that the piano students collaborate with composition students to create an original performance piece, which forms part of the pianist’s 20 minute performance at the competition. Young writers, young performers – check and check.  

To be honest, I had no idea what to expect and had no context for the music. I just knew it was ‘contemporary music.’ i.e. classical music composed from around 1970’s to present day.

Here are Herbert’s thoughts. I’ll keep this brief so that I don’t lose you:

Not only was each pianist unbelievably talented what was so exciting/refreshing was that they each had their own distinctive and compelling playing style.

Maybe it was because I saw the six performers ‘back to back’ that this stood out more, but not only did they really have an authentic style, it felt very different from piano performances that I have seen in the past (i.e  a lot of wavey piano arms and forced movement that does absolutely nothing for Herbert or the world) What was even cooler was that each pianist had a bassface that would rival Este Haim’s – truly.  

The music: I can’t lie, the music itself was not ‘easy’ – no recurring melodies to make you feel ‘comfortable,’ but I got something different from it - the performers were so in control of the pieces and ‘in it’ that I decided early on to let go and let them take me with them.

Am I glad I did? Yes, because whilst I couldn’t find my rhythm, I let myself be taken into theirs – does that make sense? Because I did that - I really enjoyed it and lost myself.

Music Highlights: Frederic Rzewski- Piano Piece IV (1977) + and Toby Ingram – Into The Unknown (2017)

Performance Highlights: It is no exaggeration when I say all the performers were excellent, but I do have to make one special mention of Mahsa Salali who completely sucked me in. She was like a piano puppet master – authorative, passionate – completely in control. She played Frederic Rzewski- Piano Piece IV (I’ve put it below). Again, I warn you, it’s not ‘easy’ but please try it - I’ve never heard a piano sound like that – it was percussive, exciting, light, dark and real and Mahsa was utterly mesmerising.

The whole performance opened my eyes to a completely different way of experiencing music. I realised that it’s ok not to know what’s playing, it’s ok not to be able to ‘tap’ your foot or nod your head. Sometimes it’s just ok to let go and let someone else show you into their world.

Another performance I have to mention was given by Rotem Sherman – her physicallity was almost ‘balletic’ and she played her own composition ‘Home’ (2017) which was brilliant and incredibly moving.

What I’d really love to see: Mahsa & Rotem duetting.  

Final Word: These concerts are free, these concerts are central, they’re carefully curated and short so Herbert would urge you to go. You never know … you might surprise yourself.    


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