March 27, 2023

Cornerstone Festival 2012: Ensemble 10/10 Review

Each year this writer often travels up towards the edge of Everton to hear impressive performances from an annual art music festival; on Shaw Street is the Cornerstone which hosts in its grand, Great Hall a selection of cutting edge acoustic and electronic music from national and international artists.  Inside the church shape of the performance space with art works hung on its walls and a high roof, the sound is resonant thanks to its arched ceiling and wooden floor.

This opening evening concert featured Ensemble 10/10, an offshoot of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra which specialises in 20th and 21st century contemporary composition and although it was a reduced size instrumentally, the sixteen musicians and works suited the occasion well (after all the festival’s remit is to present adventurous and different works).  Much like a symphony orchestra line up except with a reduced amount of musicians per section, the addition of harp and piano added more textual possibilities and range to the works being presented.  It was a full house, in which over a hundred audience members turned up including composers and music lecturers of Liverpool Hope University.

Conducted by the affable Clark Rundell, who is a specialist of contemporary music the audience were treated to works by Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Kenneth Hesketh, David Horne, Matthias Pintscher and Rens Tienstra: all are respected composers from their respective countries and a number of pieces performed were premieres.  Rundell introduced each work by chatting informally with the composers present about what their pieces symbolised and how it best utilised the abilities of Ensemble 10/10.  ‘Silbury Air’ by Birtwistle started the concert off with a challenging work, using all elements of the ensemble in a rhythmically complex manner; equally demanding music was given by Hesketh’s ‘Theatre of Attractions’, a three-movement continuous piece that allowed for musical ideas to intermingled, sometimes creating chaotic sounds.   By far the most accessible work of the evening was by Tienstra; entitled ‘Recite’ had vocal qualities using lots of ensemble sustained chords which conveyed the sounds of ancient Church music and operated well in adding variety to a concert dominated by atonal works.

The well respected composer David Horne was warmly applauded as his work, ‘Virtuosic Instruments’ as the title implies, tested Ensemble 10/10 technically and had instances of micro-tonality and string detuning for extra effect.  This finale solidified some of the excellent playing of all its musicians and demonstrated that a healthy, enthusiastic following for this contemporary music continues to exist in the North West.



The Cornerstone Festival runs daily until Monday 3rd December and tickets can be bought from the Box Office inside the foyer of the building.

Mark Jones (MA)



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