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Ross Birrell and David Harding - Triptych

Trinity Apse, Edinburgh until August 26th
Five stars

Absence and loss are everything in this ongoing collaboration between Ross Birrell and David Harding, which forms part of Edinburgh Art Festival’s 2018 Commissions Programme. It’s there in the epic sweep of Henryk Gorecki’s Symphony No 3: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (1976), a filmed performance of which forms the show’s heart. Shown across three screens, the film, Lento, features a collaboration between the Athens State Orchestra and the Syrian Expat Philharmonic Orchestra. With the orchestras filmed from the back of the central screen, Syrian soprano Rasha Rizk eventually comes into view on the two either side to sing a haunting fifteenth-century lament on loss through war.

The resonances of enforced migration are lent even more intensity by the washes of blue and red that cover the windows of Trinity Apse. The different shades are derived from another music rooted in the words of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, and lend the film and performance fire as they reflect the slow-burning sombreness of the music. The piece was originally conceived for documenta 14, which moved between Athens and Kassel, along with a new piece, Fugue, developed in collaboration with Syrian composer and violinist Ali Moraly. Transposed to such a dramatic context as it travels the globe, its over-riding sense of a world in endless exile makes for an essential experience.

The List, August 2018


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