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Draughtsman’s latest contract

Michael Nyman 75th birthday is being marked by a concert of his music paired with Purcell, sung by contertenor Iestyn Davies at Temple Church

21 March, 2019 — By Michael White

Composer Michael Nyman who wrote the film score for The Draughtsman’s Contract

MICHAEL Nyman – let me be upfront about this – isn’t one of my favourite composers: his concert music can be brutal, raw, unstylish and banal (there, got that off my chest).

But years ago he wrote some classic film scores that even his worst enemies – he has a few – would have to admit as stand-out works, indicative of their time but effective beyond it. And chief among them was his score for Peter Greenaway’s period murder-mystery The Draughtsman’s Contract which was released in 1982, starred Hampstead’s own Janet Suzman, and featured music by Nyman that hi-jacked 17th-century ideas by Henry Purcell and squeezed them like toothpaste onto 20th-century teeth. Sharp ones.

A link was forged between two sound-worlds. And it survives in a concert running this week to mark Nyman’s 75th birthday – in, of all unlikely places, the Temple Church: the round, crusader, spiritual citadel in the heart of legal London.


Iestyn Davies. Photo: Chris Sorensen

Why it’s happening there I couldn’t say, but it’s an interesting place. And apart from hearing Purcell and Nyman side by side, the reason for going is that it features Iestyn Davies, current superstar of British countertenors.

Countertenors sing a certain repertoire that tends to be old (baroque) or new (contemporary), with nothing from the 19th-century in between because no one was writing their sort of music at that time. So a concert of Purcell and Nyman makes a perfect fit for somebody like Davies.

He’s a fine artist. And that he’s performing with the equally fine period band Fretwork should guarantee the evening.

Just don’t expect to hear much in the way of words: the Temple Church has a notoriously smothering acoustic.

• Iestyn Davies and Fretwork, Tuesday March 26, 7pm. Tickets from £10. Temple Church (off Fleet Street) EC4Y 7BB, 020 7427 5641, www.templemusic.org/shop/iestyndavies/

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