Chris van Tuinen in his introduction to Soft Soft Loud described new music as “pieces that people don’t like and that are hard to get audiences for.” The PIAF classical music program manager had his tongue firmly in his cheek; he was speaking to a large and enthusiastic crowd gathered at the Fremantle Arts Centre to hear a piece by Mark-Anthony Turnage, one of the coolest composers currently on the planet.
The compelling emotional impact of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s music
The attraction on this windless, starry night was Turnage’s iconic Blood on the Floor for jazz quartet and orchestra which was premiered in a new arrangement by artistic director Matthew Hoy. The orchestra was reduced by almost half its size and – to Hoy’s credit –none of Turnage’s colour or rhythmic flamboyance was lost. Instead there was an organic, intimate intensity with the conducting shared between Hoy (doubling as cellist) and saxophonist Matthew Styles.

Turnage’s skilful fusing of jazz and classical idioms was immediately apparent as bass player Sam Anning and guitarist Carl Morgan joined drummer Benjamin Vanderwal in a funk rhythm while the woodwind and brass snapped out Stravinskian rhythmic offbeats. The fourth movement Sweet and Decay retained its powerful bass sound: two contrabassoons, two clarinets, double bass, timpani and gong created a satisfyingly deep reverberation while chilling solos from alto flute, soprano saxophone and viola completed the soundworld. In contrast Junior Addict and Elegy for Andy (written in memory of the composer’s brother) were sparse with the melancholic air of jazz ballads. Needles and Crackdown were particularly jazz-inflected with Carl Mackey delivering a sweetly swinging saxophone improvisation.

The intensity peaked in Cut Up where big band groove juxtaposed with fragmented instrumental lines, held together by Vanderwal’s flawless transitioning through complex time signatures. Dispelling the Fears concluded the audio rollercoaster with slow-moving block chords and a gradually ascending trumpet solo (Martin Phillipson), the final bars delivered with muted poignancy.

It was another satisfying Soft Soft Loud concert showcasing the versatility of Perth’s musicians and the compelling emotional impact of new music. 
This review copyright The West Australian 2016.