Plato and Anaïs in the School of Athens. Detail. Photomontage © 2011 Michael Miller.

London Sinfonietta perform Louis Andriessen’s Anaïs Nin and De Staat at Queen Elizabeth Hall

Years before I ever picked up any of their books, I was fascinated by the idea of the ‘Lost Generation’ of American writers in Paris between the World Wars; now that I’ve actually read The Great Gatsby, the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms and even a couple of Anaïs Nin’s books (Gertrude Stein’s going to have to wait, though), I felt I couldn’t pass up the chance to hear this UK premiere of the Dutch composer Louis Andriessen’s piece inspired by Nin’s relationships with several of her many lovers from that time—among them her father.

London Sinfonietta: Xenakis – Architect of Sound, London Sinfonietta and André de Ridder at the Southbank Centre’s Ether Festival

The Southbank’s annual Ether Festival, exploring innovative and multi-disciplinary approaches to contemporary music, includes this year a Xenakis weekend (perhaps timed to mark the tenth anniversary of the composer’s death), of which this concert is a part; following the Barbican’s “Total Immersion” day dedicated to him two years ago, there seems to be a bit of a vogue for Xenakis in London at the moment. I’m no aficionado, but have always been intrigued by his unique background as an architect and mathematician who applied the same structural principles to composition, and grateful that the resulting music doesn’t sound remotely as sterile as one might imagine — in fact far less so, to my mind, than what one might call the pseudo-mathematical approach of total serialism.

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