The rather excellent graphic for Sound Unbound depicts and explosion of instruments and colour, overlapping in a way that is both curious and satisfying. Musically, the 2017 edition of the Barbican’s classical open-house was much the same.
With an offering of music so generous that it would be impossible to see everything, the most shrewd use of time seemed to be picking some fixed points and then to see what else would cross your both in between. This approach would be a test of the concept and one that paid off. The first of these fixed-points was to be the Kanneh-Mason Trio, comprising of siblings that include Sheku, recent winner of the BBC’s Young Musician of the Year. En route to St Giles’ Cripplegate to see them, the Street Orchestra of London were doing their thing on the lakeside — first chance encounter of the day and a pleasing one. The Kanneh Masons themselves played a programme of excerpts from three piano trios (Rachmaninov, Shostakovich and Mendelssohn) and wowed the audience with sibling-crafted cohesion.
Happy to go with the flow, Angel Blue was the next to enchant a room of curious ears as she took to the Main Hall stage for an hour of wide-ranging repertoire along with pianist James Baillieu. Dressed in jeans, boots and a newly-bought top, she embodied and embraced the friendly informality of the weekend. Of her choices, the nowness and humour of Bruce Adolphe’s Valley Girl in Love teased laughter and applause from the audience in equal measure. It was a particularly pleasing (and accidental) discovery. Again, proof of concept. Well done, Barb.
The finale of the day arrived in the form of Chilly Gonzales, Britten Sinfonia and Jules Buckley presenting a Young-ish Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. In a manner typical of the velvet-robed Gonzo, Henry Purcell’s Rondeau from Abdelazer was replaced with Oasis’ Champagne Supernova, and deconstructed in a manner that Britten would be proud. Book-ended by Chilly’s signature foot-stomping piano-rap, there was enough variety to encapsulate the entire Sound Unbound mission statement. How satisfying to see how the central philosophy spread and triumphed throughout the programme, the centre and the experience as a whole.