3rd May 2007: Premiere of Rivers & Mirrors, Part 1 by Oscar Edelstein

3rd May 2007: Premiere of Rivers & Mirrors, Part 1 by Oscar Edelstein

By Ray Picot

To those unfamiliar with the Argentine composer Oscar Edelstein (b. 1953), he is a foremost member of his country's avant-garde and a leading cultural figure. His last ensemble, ENS, was seen by many as an unconventional 21st-century equivalent of Piazzolla's Quintet. He has written in all the important genres, including electronics, and has achieved critical acclaim since the 1980s. Edelstein's recent operatic production has been hailed as innovatory. His good theatrical sense was put to good effect in this new piece of contemporary dance theatre at the Bolivar Hall. Also, on the strength of tonight's performance, the composer also possesses a formidable pianistic technique.

Rivers & Mountains is essentially a theatrical experience, with sound and images created live and recorded as a response to the images and ideas behind the poem, El Rio by Juan L Ortiz. This was translated and inspired the poem, The River, by Robert Minnhinick. The film was made possible through a grant from the Arts Council of Wales.

The pianist is on stage throughout the performance, initially alone, accompanied by a film involving the dancer, Sandra Grinberg. Pre-recorded sounds are superimposed with live vocals from Deborah Claire Procter, who is first seated in the auditorium and then joins the pianist on stage. The interaction of live and recorded performance is very effectively achieved, and the timing impeccable.

Lasting about 45 minutes, the work is carefully structured, and uses sound effects from the strings of the piano in additional to the usual ones obtained from the keys, often to dramatic effect. The piano soundscape is quasi-orchestral and quite striking, and includes an element of improvisation. The wordless vocals are brought in gradually, and become inseparable from the images. The two collaborating artists both wear red dresses, thus merging in their identities. Walking, moving and using dance movement, Sandra Grinberg is a constant and effective focus. Deborah Claire Procter uses her broad artistic experience to bring a dynamic response to both piano sounds and the images.

There is an intensity to the work that rarely loses its edge, and the mirror which accompanies Sandra Grinberg in quite specific settings is an effective device that creatively flowers in the second section. This is an artificial device, and for most of the time works well. It is moved from grey industrial formality to a more decorative formality within a building who's past architectural splendours are only glimpsed through the mirror.

There are three performances of this work in the UK and hopefully they will stimulate wider interest in the work of Oscar Edelstein. Reactions from the audience were positive, which must auger well. To find out more about this piece, log on to the dedicated website, www.riversandmirrors.com



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