Richard Ayres: NONcertos and others

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

WORKS: No. 37b for Orchestra; No. 36: NONcerto for Horn; No. 31: NONcerto for Trumpet
PERFORMER: Wim Timmermans (horn), Marco Blaauw (trumpet); ASKO Ensemble; musikFabrik; Frankfurt Radio SO/Roland Kluttig


It has already become a cliché to describe the music of Richard Ayres (born 1965) as anarchic. It is an apt word, but needs qualifying, for, rather than destructive, this is rambunctious, joyous music, only occasionally threatening to annoy, yet repeatedly delighting. 

Ayres’s approach appears to reflect Mahler’s wish to include everything, but in its episodic spirit Ayres’s music comes across as Janácek for the 21st century and, like both composers, it is richly exhilarating, and needs time afterwards for digestion.

Other obvious reference points are Kagel, Schnittke and Post-modernist trends in general, but, rather than ironic, Ayres is celebratory in transforming diverse materials into an individual glittering mélange, as can be heard in all three pieces here.

Ayres created the genre of NONcerto in 1995 as a work in which, while resembling a traditional concerto, the role of the soloist is less certain, and each work is ultimately a study in failure, even death, despite being life-affirming and fun.


Trumpeter Marco Blaauw and horn-player Wim Timmermans are excellent soloists, the latter also having to repeatedly dash up and down two raised platforms, while the outstanding Roland Kluttig has a firm grasp of the chaos in these live accounts of all three works, not least in the NONsymphony of No. 37b. Altogether, highly recommended. Christopher Dingle