Fat Cat Records’ classical imprint 130701 has been one of the premier outlets for contemporary composers over its decade-long history – an achievement marked by this Brighton Festival event. And for a label that has dedicated itself with an almost religious devotion to the modern-classical cause, where better to showcase their three current flagship artists than a church?

Opening was US artist Dustin O’Halloran, whose string-laden piano tinkering has a certain starry sway but washes over all too easily. Performing cuts from his Lumiere album, he did enough to convey that he is a capable composer with an ear for an amiable arrangement or two. But where the American’s peers – Icelandic impresario Ólafur Arnalds and tonight’s not-dissimilar headliner Max Richter, for example – rivet and fascinate with their shifting textures and beguiling melodies, O’Halloran’s music tonight struggles to stem your attention wandering elsewhere, and I’m left the inspecting the nuances of the venue around me: the photographer gliding like a ballet dancer around the stage trying to get his shots in unnoticed, the terse and angry glances exchanged between the violinists as cues get missed, the way the turning of sheet music loudly slices through the quiet like a literal paper cut. O’Halloran clearly has the talent to build on this messy and middling set – let’s hope he does.

Hauschka fares much, much better. The German composer’s piano vandalism incorporates everything from Ping-Pong balls and silver trinkets to sex toys – placing items in the instrument’s insides, the instrument becomes a percussive treasure trove of different timbres and sounds. The songs tonight are light riffs on his most recent album’s techno-infused forays, and while there’s probably plenty to pore over in the minutiae of his work, it’s too tribal and impulsive to drag yourself away from the simple joy and eclecticism of it all. Juddering with irrepressible intensity, his performance screams by in a hail of tinny, fluttering beats and loops. Incendiary and enthralling, Hauschka is a rare talent.

Max Richter emerges onstage distinctly unimpressed. “There was supposed to be an accompanying film, but a bulb has burst in the projector. There’s nothing we can do, so we just have to get on with it,” he says. I expect a wry, sardonic smile that never arrives. His music, luckily, bears more warmth. He and his six-piece string orchestra rally through Infra, his dark, twisted soundtrack to the ballet of the same name. The gloom and doom is palpable, practically apocalyptic. Though he’s an impressive pianist, as an outing for solo piece Infra 3 proves, he spends large portions of the set simply watching over his string players, curating fizzing field recordings that sift in and out of audibility. Glassy electronic sounds spill into the music and lend an ethereal edge to his brooding, somber creations. The glimpse of hope offered by Infra 5 is soon revoked by the crushing, deathly sound of one of his finest compositions, On The Nature Of Daylight, which the ensemble conclude with. Richter is uncompromising in his penchant for the sort of powerful, weighty existentialism that sits in his compositions, lingering underneath with a predatory snap. It’s dark, it’s enveloping and it packs an emotional punch that is unfathomable until you’ve undergone its mesmerizing spell. Moving and magnificent.