Three days of celebrating stunning new music from around the world with fourth festival in Hastings and Bexhill

Polo Piatti at International Composers Festival 2018
Polo Piatti at International Composers Festival 2018

The Fourth International Composers Festival presented six events over three days featuring the work of more than 40 living composers and over 200 performers.

Moreover, it brought together a wide range of musicians and styles but with one specific focus in mind – the importance of melody to enhance the listener’s experience and enjoyment, set and extolled by Polo Piatti as the goal of the festival.

The opening concert on Friday evening at the Opus Theatre was given by the International Festival Orchestra under John Andrews. Two of the most engaging works were Thomas Hewitt-Jones’ That’s It, I’m off To Cuba whisking us away to the exotic before Louise Denny’ Mulberry Harbours – a march written for Civil Engineers – bringing us comfortably back to a very English Waltonesque reality.

Efimero by Noelia Escalzo brought the first of a number of fine solos from violinist Jane Gordon, who led the orchestra as well as providing many individual items across the weekend. Great musicianship and a calm head at all times.

Polo Piatti is a fine composer in his own right and it was more than acceptable that he should include some of his own works. On Friday we heard Goodbye with Katie Molloy providing the guitar solo and the concert ended with The Impossible Pieces for orchestra with trumpet, clarinet and violin solos. The richly rolling orchestration was immensely pleasing and brought the first day to a fine climax.

Saturday morning, in the De La Warr Pavilion, we heard a wide range of chamber music. Some the most impressive was performed by violinist, Daniel Rainey and pianist Simon Proctor. Daydream by Kevin Riley and Romance by Peter Thorogood both demonstrated a sensitive understanding of form and a keen awareness of the development of ideas. Lament by Ash Madni was one of the few pieces of genuinely reflective writing, its soulful reworking of a brief motif being very moving.

The morning ended with Romance in C by Fiona Bennett with a horn solo finely played Simon Morgan.

Saturday afternoon brought a change of approach with the Brighton Film Quartet playing works by Penny Loosemore set against film clips. Camera – Sound – Play! on Saturday evening brought us to a more familiar set of scores including music from La La Land, Pirates Of The Caribbean and Harry Potter.

However it also included an improvised piece from Oliver Poole - Altitude – which involved not only the pianist improvising but the whole orchestra as well – a fascinating and most impressive undertaking as well as one which proved musically stimulating.

Perhaps the most innovative idea came on Sunday at the concluding event which was given over to dance. Six new works from around the world were choreographed by the Eastbourne Academy of Dancing and the Diana Freedman School of Dance, ranging from a lively Barro Negro from Mexico by Carlos Salomon, Polo Piatti’s own Tango Solitaire and a stunning Hornpipe from Simon Proctor. After the interval there the world premiere of The Crane’s Wife choreographed by Mayu Uesugi – who also danced the principle role – and scored by Nobuya Monta. The company had travelled from Osaka specifically to give this premiere.

Only a few years ago the idea of so many international musicians coming for an event of this breadth and quality would have been unthinkable. We have much to be thankful for in the creative talents and sheer hard work which Polo Piatti has put in to making this possible. Long may it last! By Brian Hick.

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