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Ever adventurous, the London Sinfonietta broached an evening of multimedia on Monday. Is this the big hope for classical music or a case of back to the future? Either conclusion was possible by the end of this nearly three-hour experiment.

The main attraction was the first London performance of a new work by Simon Bainbridge, Music Space Reflection – Manchester. Once a minimalist, later a composer of musical landscapes, Bainbridge seems to be reinventing himself again. Attracted by the spatial effects achieved by the architect Daniel Libeskind, he tries in this piece to marry music and architecture. Much of the score is silent, just as a building is filled with empty space, and the music takes the form of fragments of sound, sometimes echoing round the hall as live electronics.

Maybe, in the original surroundings of Libeskind’s Imperial War Museum North, the two art forms fused convincingly into one. Here, with the 24 players of the London Sinfonietta less ambitiously spaced and the audience seated (the Manchester audience was free to wander about) the impact was minimal. The score simply felt like a hollow shell.

From Bainbridge’s echoing emptinesses to the frenetic activity of Berio’s Laborintus II of 1965 was quite a mental leap. Here are the 1960s writ large – earnest philosophy, scatty jazz, a howling and rowdy choir, all intended as a fusion of music and theatre. The London Sinfonietta did not give us any theatre, but the choral group Pulse worked overtime and Omar Ebrahim intoned gravely in Italian, when we could hear him over the mêlée.

Finally, Anna Meredith’s flak gave us an arty son et lumière: minimalist music, pounding away with increasing rhythmic momentum, to the visual accompaniment of ceiling illuminations and clouds of smoke. It at least had a sense of drama and, unlike the evening’s other two works, did not outstay its welcome.
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