3 stars Royal Albert Hall, London
Erica Jeal

There is a gentle element of spectacle to Thea Musgrave’s new work, Two’s Company, written for the odd soloistic couple of oboist Nicholas Daniel and percussionist Evelyn Glennie.

Unattended clusters of percussion instruments are ranged at various points around a chamber-sized orchestra. Glennie begins stage right, adding low chimes and sweeps of glittering bells to an elegiac, deep-breathing opening. When Daniel joins in, duetting with cor anglais, viola and clarinet in turn before settling on a dialogue with Glennie, it is from up the steps on the other side.

The rest of the piece sees the two moving to different stations around the orchestra – Glennie on marimba, then drums and wood blocks – while getting ever closer, until Glennie lets Daniel lead her to the xylophone at the front, where they combine in more conventional duet.

It works… At 20 minutes the piece is hardly insubstantial, but … the sight of Glennie hitching up her dress and striding round to thwack the bass drum suggested it might be about nothing more poetic than a domestic row. Still, that was good enough for Strauss. And Musgrave’s musical style, tonal but never obvious, remains intriguingly and appealingly her own.