To celebrate the centenary of Conlon Nancarrow’s birth, Southbank Centre is hosting Impossible Brilliance: The Music of Conlon Nancarrow, a two-day festival taking place on 21 & 22 April in Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room.
Described as “one of the most singular musical minds in history” (The Daily Telegraph), Conlon Nancarrow is remembered for creating some of the most rhythmically intricate music ever written through more than 50 etudes for the player piano – an instrument able to produce complex rhythms at a speed unplayable by human hands.
Although he is today considered one of the most innovative composers of 20th century music, Nancarrow’s musical achievements remained largely unrecognized until late in his lifetime. Early performances of his works frequently failed to impress as they eluded both musicians and audiences with their rhythmic complexity. His political leanings led to the composer being refused a US passport application in 1940 and he emigrated to Mexico where the contemporary music scene was no better equipped to do justice to his compositions. Frustrated with his career, Nancarrow decided to purchase a player-piano – if musicians couldn’t or wouldn’t play his “impossible music” then a machine could do the job instead.
To celebrate his unique brilliance, the festival will feature performances by the London Sinfonietta, the Arditti Quartet and Trinity Laban’s Contemporary Music Group, as well as the complete “Studies for Player Piano “performed on an original Marshall and Wendell Ampico reproducing piano, identical to Nancarrow’s own.
You can buy tickets from our website