You should always expect the unexpected at one of Trinity Laban’s free lunchtime recitals. And that was never truer than when soprano Patricia Auchterlonie and flautist Antonia Berg joined forces in the Old Royal Naval College chapel to play a wildly challenging piece by contemporary American composer Kate Soper. Only The Words Themselves Mean What They Say is written for soprano and three types of flute – bass, C and piccolo. It requires peerless musical virtuosity – and the ability of both performers to intersperse their parts with speech, cries, sighs and percussive breaths. Soper said of the 2011 piece that it was a manifestation of “insanity as the two players struggle, with a single addled brain, to navigate the treacherous labyrinth of simple logic”. I have never heard insanity so beautifully rendered as it was by Auchterlonie and Berg, who gave us a version that was as close to perfect as makes no difference. Earlier in this recital of works by modern women composers the soprano, accompanied by pianist Mairi Grewar, had sung Chanting To Paradise by Libby Larsen, Navždy by Vitēzslava Kaprálová, Escape by student composer Clare Elton and selections from Clairières Dans Le Ciel by Lili Boulanger.
All four pieces were wonderful. But the Soper was transcendent.