So it finally happened: I experienced my first vocal setting of the word ‘Covid’. An encounter that was, inevitably, more harrowing than when I caught the virus itself. ‘Coviiiiiiid!’ yowled the singer, while the orchestra emitted a boom, crack, snap, rumble rumble, shriek, bang, dissonance dissonance. Rice Crispies fans, eat your heart out.
It was part of Exiles, a 30-minute new commission by Julian Anderson for the opening concert of the LSO season. And though this work for soprano, chorus and orchestra did have its touching moments, and attractively translucent and lustrous moments, all terrifically anal and French (music that held out its pinkie), it had the great misfortune to sit right next to a knockout bit of word setting, Natural History (1998) by Judith Weir, so economical and direct.