THIS was another coffee concert, this time in the attractive and accessible Helmsley Arts Centre. These events usually consist of a pre-concert talk by the composer, lasting 40 minutes, followed by the performance, all enhanced by a cup of coffee.

On Memory is a composition of 12 pieces of music that Michael Zev Gordon has created using standard works by Couperin, Ravel, Bartok, Schumann and Debussy among others, as a variety of musical channels.

We heard how a Couperin keyboard can be detected emerging from a Bartok piece, and other examples of how memory filters through music.

He explains how, as an example, a Bach sarabande is “played mostly backwards, but every now and again a beat or bar is heard the right way round”.

Zev Gordon’s composition is intended to be meaningful, expressivelycharged post-modernist. He describes movement number 5 as involving “a long hard look at a single piece of material, gradually encrusted with decoration” and finally “two movements that occupy a category of their own – all white notes employing tonal material but organised through the prism of post-serial thinking”.

All this is fine cerebral stuff, and one could worry it out over time no doubt, but fortunately the music itself is rather more approachable. Joseph Houston is a very fine young pianist, who did full justice to the expression of Zev Gordon’s composition, Homecoming, world-premiered at this concert.

This music was a joint commission by Ryedale Festival and Help Musicians UK, formerly the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund.

Irene MacDonald