By Rowena Smith
From The Herald - May 15 2006
One of the long-term goals of Sonic Fusion, the new contemporary music festival in Edinburgh, is the establishment of a research ensemble. The idea of a group that specialises not only in the performance of contemporary music but also works in areas of sonic and technological research might sound strange in musically rather conservative Scotland, but such an idea is nothing new on the continent, where groups such as the Ensemble Intercontemporain at IRCAM in Paris are already established at the centre of cutting-edge musical performance and research. The Research Ensemble, the first group of its kind to be set up in Britain, gave its inaugural public performance in St John's as part of Sonic Fusion. The chamber group has a fixed cast-list of eight musicians in a non-standard line-up of flute, clarinet, horn, violin, cello, piano, percussion and mezzo-soprano that suggests its roots in contemporary music. Taken as a mission statement for the development of the ensemble, the opening concert spoke of variety, presenting a wide range of works, many of them world or UK premieres, by an international array of composers. From the almost static simplicity of Aruaru, by Argentinian composer Graciela Paraskevaidis, to the intricate complexities of Patricia's Songs, especially written for the ensemble by Stephen Davismoon, the driving force behind Sonic Fusion, the overriding impression was that there was no all-pervasive dogma uniting the programming. The pieces ranged in scale from utilising all the musicians to solos, and, indeed, it was two of the latter works that made the greatest impression: flautist Richard Craig playing the ephemeral, daringly experimental Ici for solo flute by Pascal Dusapin, and John Casken's dancing Spring Cadenza for cello, played with vigour and intensity by its dedicatee, Betsy Taylor.