Jakob Levinsen from the newspaper Jyllandsposten was one of many critics who praised the Athelas New Music festival 2010:
Jyllands-Posten | June 12, 2010
Contemporary Music Can Be a Feast
The Jubilee Week of Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen has set a new Danish standard for how creative, professional and entertaining the presentation of art music can be.
5 star ratings for both concerts
By Jakob Levinsen
Teater Republique, Thursday the 10th of June: BANG ON A CAN ALL-STARS
and ATHELAS SINFONIETTA COPENHAGEN, conducted by Pierre-Andre Valade
A cheeky New Yorker attitude from the ensemble Bang On A Can All-Stars, turning expectations upside down and displaying wit as well as virtuosity? Or the delicate, almost static miniature art of Hans Abrahamsen’s hour-long Schnee?
Athelas Sinfonietta could of course have celebrated their 20 year jubilee in the way it is usually done nowadays: By giving an ordinary concert for friends and critics featuring a couple of specially composed novelties by local celebrities – nothing exceptional or out-of-the-way.
Instead, the Copenhagen ensemble specializing in contemporary music has chosen what in another line of work one might be termed to go all the way. That is, to celebrate the jubilee in the form a festival lasting eight days and presenting Danish as well as foreign (not least American) music and featuring not only Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen itself but also a number of other first-rate ensembles from at home and abroad, performing music in various styles reaching from Modernism, Minimalism and Danish specialities to something in the area of Jazz and Rock music.
And on top of this, the festival did not take place in the usual concert venues for Classical music, but in the middle of the buzz of Copenhagen’s cultural activities, at the Teater Republique on Østerbro. Consequently, the festival has been a great success: Every concert I heard was either well-attended or sold out.
Midway between Rock and Classical
On Thursday night Athelas itself performed a major work, namely what is by some distance the longest work ever by the master of miniatures Hans Abrahamsen. And one cannot imagine a more thoroughly delicate, transparent and refined work than Schnee in Danish music.
But it was also very rewarding to have the contrasting experience on the same night, of the American elite ensemble Bang On A Can All-Stars, performing both cheeky new American music midway between Rock and Classical, and a Minimalist Classic like Steve Reich’s Electric Counterpoint. And finally Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen’s new Convex-Concave-Concord which gave the impression that the subtle Danish veteran is also a devil-may-care New Yorker at heart.
The programming of American music alongside Danish works has been an underlying theme of the festival. A high point among the festival concerts I attended was the performance on Sunday of Steve Reich’s magnum opus Music for 18 Musicians. But the contrast between Danish and American music did not only reveal itself in the works themselves but also in the different way that many American composers and musicians position themselves, with a much more aggressive and self-made attitude than their reticent Danish colleagues.
This already seems to have inspired the people behind the Athelas New Music Festival for with this year’s festival they set a new Danish standard for how creative, professional and entertaining the presentation of art music can be. Contemporay music can actually sound like a feast. Listen for yourself tonight if you can come to Østerbro where Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen, Bang On A Can All-Stars and the Mogens Dahl Chamber Choir perform rock icon Brian Eno’s Music for Airports and Terry Riley’s In C.