Brian Ferneyhough Total Immersion

The baptismal associations of the Total Immersion series are worth bearing in mind: a day submerged in Ferneyhough's music leaves one's ears quite reborn. The Diotima Quartet took the lunchtime stage for the compact, brief Second String Quartet and the compact but extended set of Sonatas for String Quartet. Supple and spirited, these tightly controlled but loving performances teased out the translucent beauty of these works. First performed in 1967, the Sonatas transformed Ferneyhough's reputation, and the Diotimas made it easy to hear why.

The painstakingly prepared main concert heard the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Martyn Brabbins in Ferneyhough's two orchestral scores to date: Plötzlichkeit, from 2006, and La Terre Est un Homme, a scandal at its 1979 premiere and scarcely heard since. Sandwiched between them were the third Carceri d'Invenzione, a Pandora's box of delights for chamber ensemble, and the Missa Brevis performed by the BBC Singers, led by James Morgan.

Plötzlichkeit means "suddenness", the experience of which Ferneyhough induces by interrupting each musical process before the mind has had a chance to chart its course. Made up of 111 fragmentary sections, some of which linger tantalisingly, its exploration of recherché textures and flashed colour spectrums is both beautiful and thrilling. La Terre, monumental in its intensity and magnificent in its sheer chutzpah, projects a seething macrocosm of souls struggling against the odds to grace mere survival with meaning. With the BBCSO at their committed, inspirational best, Ferneyhough's violent cry against the void has been answered at last.

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