TRAVELLING LIGHT - MUSIC BY JIM PARKER DIVINE ART DDA 25146
After graduating as an oboist at the Guildhall School of Music, Jim Parker played with leading orchestras and chamber groups before concentrating on composing and conducting. He had early success with a series of recordings in which he sympathetically set to music the poems of John Betjeman, spoken by the poet and conducted by himself. These and subsequent records led to work in theatre, film and television, for which he has written scores for hundreds of programmes such as House of Cards, Foyles War and Midsomer Murers, winning BAFTA award for best television music four times. Classical compositions include a Concerto For Clarinet, a one act opera for Channel Four Television, settings of poems by Oscar Wilde and chamber music for wind ensembles. This very enjoyable album collects a number of Parker’s recent compositions which have a pictorial quality and display his remarkable talent for memorable melodies and colouration, whether it be the recorder acting like a Peruvian pipe, or violins emulating the Hurdy-Gurdy. Light music albums of this quality are rare these days and this is a joyful gem. The first three suites are scored for String Quartet (some with recorder, harp and bass); Hoofers (named for stage dancers) is a suite for oboe and piano of individual pieces: The Flying Scotsman, The Lonely Ballerina, Banjolele and Hoofers. The talented musicians are Richard Simpson (oboe), Janet Simpson (piano), John Turner (recorder), Anna Christensen (harp), Alex Jones (double bass) and the Solem Quartet. Highly recommended.
SONIC MIGRATIONS - MUSIC OF LAURIE ALTMAN NEOS 11614-15
Laurie Altman is an award-winning composer and pianist whose extensive repertoire covers both classical and jazz. He performed extensively throughout the 1970s and ‘80s at many of New York City’s most famous jazz clubs, including The Blue Note, Soundscape and Seventh Avenue South. He has written more than a hundred jazz pieces as well as chamber, vocal, piano, opera, choral works and film scores. A native New Yorker now living in Switzerland, Altman has been recognized with two National Endowment Fellowships, a Lincoln Center Felt Forum Award and the Mason Gross Composition Prize. A consummate musician with the ability to convey simplicity in the most complex of musical structures, Laurie Altman draws upon all musical styles and genres to create music that is both innovative and yet develops naturally from all that preceded it. He writes of this double-CD release: ‘The musical compositions on Sonic Migrations represent in some way a passage: A passage through places (globally), history and events, words, sonic environments, peoples lives and their mutual emotions. The pieces are the by product of a time span of some 25 years, encompassing diverse ensembles and sonic frameworks, far flung influences, textures and feelings.’ The first CD includes a set of Five Variations derived from Rachmaninoff’s Piano Sonata, Opus 35, movement 2. No Hay Olvido (Sonata) features a poem by Pablo Neruda. The second CD opens with an Altman Piano Sonata inspired by a trip he made with his wife, Jeannine Hummel, to Tanzania. ‘The initial impetus emerged from the percussive character of hand and finger drumming, and attempting to connect that image directly to the piano.’ The moving ‘Laments of the Homeless Women’ features a poem by David Sten Herrstrom sung by soprano Patrice Michaels. As well as Altman, the excellent musicians here also include Clipper Erickson (piano), the Manhattan String Quartet, Andrew Rathbun (saxophone), Cavatina Duo (Eugenia Moliner - flute; Denis Azabagic - guitar), and Matthias Mueller (clarinet and SABRE - a bass clarinet equipped with sensors that can be controlled by computer. ‘His music elevates meaning, giving it life and vividness beyond words.’ – Newark Star Ledger.
REICH - WTC 9/11 + DIFFERENT TRAINS MEGADISC MDC7877
Steve Reich was born in New York City in 1936. Following his parents divorce when he was a year old, he divided his time between New York and California and began to study music in earnest at the age of 14, after hearing music from the Baroque period and earlier, as well as music of the 20th century. Since the Minimalism of his beginnings as a composer, he has remained faithful to repetitive writing (patterns), even though his latest creations have become more harmonic and thereby richer and more delightful, tinged with the fantastic. One of the most important and influential composers of contemporary music, his impact has been considerable and sometimes controversial. He composed WTC 9/11 in 2010 in homage to the victims of the attack on the World Trade Center in September 2001. First performed in 2011 at Duke University in North Carolina by the Kronos Quartet, WTC 9/11 would be played for the first time in New York, at Carnegie Hall, in later the same year. The piece is written for a string quartet playing live, on which are juxtaposed pre-recorded voices and two string quartets. With a playing time of 16 minutes, the work is in three movements played without a break. The first movement, ‘9/11’, is moving, disturbing and deliberately bruitist. The second movement, entitled ‘2010’, uses interviews of memories from 2001, including Reich’s neighbours (he lived near the Twin Towers for 25 years) and the first ambulance driver to arrive at the scene. In the third movement, ‘WTC’, Steve Reich takes inspiration from his friend the composer David Lang, creator in 2003 of World To Come. The Megadisc Classics offices, four blocks from the Twin Towers, were destroyed during the 2001 attack. To commemorate 9/11 on its 15th anniversary (11 September 2016) the label has released this new version of WTC 9/11, coupled with Different Trains, also for string quartet and tape. The idea for this work comes from Steve Reich’s childhood, when he had to make frequent train journeys between the East and West Coasts. Those pleasant trips, taking four days, did not prevent him from knowing that, between 1939 and 1942, European Jewish children his age were getting into very different trains… Different Trains brings together four string quartets (one playing live, the three others being added to the pre-recorded tape) and taped voices, including his nanny on those train trips, an employee of the New York-Los Angeles railroad line, and testimony collected from Holocaust survivors. The Tana Quartet recorded all the quartets without resorting to loops and has followed the original version of Steve Reich’s score.
MARTIN LUTZ - THERE IS A SPELL UPON YOUR LIPS DACAPO 8.224724
Versatile Danish composer, arranger, musician and teacher Martin Lutz’s work spans jazz, popular and classical (mostly choral) genres. Born in 1974 and currently living in Copenhagen, he has worked with some of the finest Danish musicians and says that all his music is based on his love for simple, touching melodies regardless of genre. His work includes music set to Latin texts and poems by Danish and international poets as well as some instrumental pieces. He is an artist with bold strokes, in terms of both style and genre, and this new CD features recording premieres of some of his most adventurous and eclectic compositions. His highly individual, hauntingly beautiful Stabat Mater (written for soprano and tenor solo, mixed choir, vibraphone, oboe and cello) and Two Marian Motets, Salve Regina and Ave Maria, are musical settings of much-loved religious poetry dating from the thirteenth century. The accompanying works are devoted to earthly love in its most spell-binding form, including a lovely settings of William Shakespeare’s ‘Those lips that love’s own hand did make’ and ‘How Oft, when thou, my music, music play’st’. Soprano Ditte Højgaard Andersen and tenor Bo Kristian Jensen are soloists with the Copenhagen Chamber Choir CAMERATA, conducted by Martin Nagashima Toft.
CARSON COOMAN - LIMINAL DIVERSIONS DDV 24161
Carson Cooman is an American composer born in 1982 with a catalogue of works in many forms, ranging from solo instrumental pieces to operas, and from orchestral works to hymn tunes. His music has been performed on all six inhabited continents and has appeared on over 25 recordings. As a concert organist, he specialises exclusively in the performance of new music and over 130 new works have been written for him by composers from around the world. he is also a writer on musical subjects, producing articles and reviews, and serves as an active consultant on music business matters to composers and performing organizations. The centrepiece of this triptych of related works by Cooman is the significant and rich Fourth Symphony, for orchestra and two harps (one of which is tuned down a quarter tone). Its mood fits the title, ‘Liminal’ meaning ‘on the edge of major change’, which is how our world feels most of the time. As with all of Cooman’s work, these pieces are totally accessible, not avant-garde, but explore many modern techniques to produce such effective expression of ideas. The opening piece is Shoreline Rune (for string orchestra and harp) and the CD ends with Prism, a solo organ work played here by Erik Simmons. The excellent Slovak National Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Kirk Trevor.
SCOTT BRICKMAN - DEAR DARWIN RAVELLO RECORDS RR7888
Addressing the man who greatly contributed to the theory of our evolutionary ascent, American composer composer Scott Brickman’s song-cycle Dear Darwin explores a number of themes inspired by Charles Darwin’s studies and interests, including birds, love, world travel and human boundaries. The music is set to 26 poems by Kathleen Ellis, many of which discuss observations of nature and human behavior, some proposing questions and others suggesting answers. Brickman’s compositions consider different relationships between the piano and the soprano voice as he places the piano in three different roles in respect to the soprano - as an imitation, as a supplement and as harmonic support. The songs are arranged as an abecedarium - ‘A is for Apple’ to ‘Zygote’ by way of such intriguing titles as ‘Double Crosser’, ‘Kissing In Indonesia’, ‘Lolita’, ‘Sexual Selection’ and ‘Wild Nights’. Soprano Nancy Ellen Ogle is accompanied on piano by Ginger Yang Hwalek. The other two works here, conceived for electroacoustic instrumentation, are examples of evolutionary composition. ‘Mayday Rose’ uses 100 notes or less, where Brickman states, "the definition of a ‘note’ is left up to the composer." The exciting ‘International: Bridge: Peace’ illustrates the blurring of borders and boundaries, combining and layering somewhat contradictory sounds such as spoken word and sung text, MIDI and sampled sounds. Illinois native Scott Brickman has been teaching at the University of Maine at Fort Kent since 1997 and currently is Professor of Music and Education as well as Chair of the Arts and Science Division. His adventurous, witty and assured music has been widely performed in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and South America.
FLINT JUVENTINO BEPPE - REMOTE GALAXY 2L-100-PABD
Can the dualism of life, nature and art be expressed in pure music? This is the question the multi-talented young Norwegian composer Flint Juventino Beppe – formerly known as Fred Jonny Berg – has set out to answer on this album. Remote Galaxy is a journey in time and space, a journey given meaning by the album’s music and philosophy. The music is uncompromisingly honest, with a genuine power of its own. Using well-known acoustic technology, the composer takes us to some unusual and, for most of us, unknown places. Remote Galaxy continues the journey of 2L’s Grammy nominated album Flute Mystery, and again the Philharmonia Orchestra is conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy to interpret these adventurous scores. The composer’s deep spiritual interest in nature, philosophy and space is central in the universe of Remote Galaxy and the music is unique. As well as the beautiful and accessible title piece this album includes Distant Words, the brilliant Lost in September, Tightrope Walking Beneath Heaven and Beppe’s Flute Concerto No. 2. Beppe has been diagnosed with Tourette’s and Asperger’s syndromes, and his approach to life is self-reflective and as uncompromising as his music: ‘When I take a look at the mountains or the sky, I realize I cannot spend my time on anything but grandness. It’s that or nothing. With the introduction of height channels, acoustic reflections create a natural sound presence originating from both around and above the listener to create truly immersive effect. The Auro-3D format on this Pure Audio Blu-ray features sound reproduction that is amazingly realistic, enveloping the listener in a cocoon of life-like audio.
TORBJORN DRYUD - OUT OF DARKNESS 2L 2L-099-SABD
Torbjørn Dyrud’s work Out of Darkness explores the most famous story of Christian culture - Christ’s passion, death and resurrection - in a form never heard before. The work is not a passion in the traditional sense, since it does not end with Christ’s death but continues through the kingdom of death and out of the grave, leaving us with the gospel of love that overcomes and endures everything, a gospel of grace and forgiveness. Life is the light of mankind, and we can rise out of the darkness. Artistic director Vivianne Sydnes conducts the excellent Nidaros Cathedral Choir, with readings by Sarah Head, in this moving performance of Dyrud’s dramatic music. Founded in 1946, the choir of 40 singers regularly contributes to church services at Nidaros Cathedral and is a major player in the musical life of the city of Trondheim. This two-disc-box set includes a Hybrid SACD as well as a superb pure audio Blu-ray disc for the price of one ordinary Blu-ray.
OLIVER KNUSSEN - AUTUMNAL NMC D178
Born in Glasgow in 1952, acclaimed Glasgow born composer and conductor Oliver Knussen grew up near London, where his father was principal double bass of the London Symphony Orchestra. It was with the LSO that he made his debut in 1968, conducting his First Symphony in London and in Carnegie Hall, New York. In 1970 he was awarded the first of three fellowships to Tanglewood, where he completed several works which were subsequently widely performed on both sides of the Atlantic and established his early reputation. In 1975 Knussen returned permanently to the UK and as well as becoming an Artistic Director of the Aldeburgh Festival he held posts at the Tanglewood Music Center and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. One of British music’s great originals, noted for his painstaking perfectionism, Knussen’s work is complex yet accessible and highly enjoyable. He has conducted in many parts of the world, recorded more than thirty CDs of contemporary music, including his own SYMPHONIES 2 & 3. This new recording, celebrating his 60th birthday, is a chronological tour of his work, starting with the brooding orchestral Choral, and the poetic Autumnal for violin (both written in the 1970s), through to Ophelia's Last Dance from 2010. Requiem: Songs for Sue, was written following the death of his wife in 2003, and sets texts by poets who were important to them both – Emily Dickinson, Antonio Machado, WH Auden and Rainer Maria Rilke. Also on this disc is a live recording of Knussen’s Violin Concerto, performed at the BBC Proms by Leila Josefowicz. This is an excellent introduction to anyone not yet familiar with the work of one of contemporary music's most talented and influential artists.
TANSY DAVIES - SPINE NMC D176
Tansy Davies was born in Bristol and in 1996 she was a BBC Young Composer, subsequently studyong at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and at Royal Holloway College. She rose to prominence on the British scene with a sequence of ensemble works for the Composers Ensemble, the London Sinfonietta and the Brunel Ensemble, all influenced by her apprenticeship under Simon Bainbridge and Simon Holt.In her recent work, she has found an accommodation between the worlds of the avant-garde and experimental rock, between - in the words of one critic - Xenakis and Prince. Filled with sounds of cracking, slapping, whipping and scraping, it is music that is utterly contemporary, inhabiting the same urban landscape as industrial techno and electronica. While Davies is fascinated by the potential of looping as a structural device, there is none of the formal predictability of much commercial dance music. Highlights among the nine works here are Iris, featuring saxophonist Simon Haram, the mesmeric Dark Ground, superbly played by percussionist Joby Burgess, Make Black White (an intriguing reworking of Dowland’s ‘Flow My Tears’) and the title piece, inspired by the composer’s interest in trilobites - ancient creatures of the Paleozoic era. The talented array of performers also includes BCMG, Azalea, Christopher Austin (conductor), Concordia, tenor Samuel Boden (tenor), Darragh Morgan (violin) and Huw Watkins (piano). Brilliant and inventive, this exciting music is highly accessible yet always surprising. You can find the music of Tansy Davies and many other modern composers on NMC’s excellent Music Map here Also new from NMC is RETORICA - VIOLIN DUOS (NMC D182). Inspired by their friendships with composers John McCabe and David Matthews, this is the debut album by Retorica (Philippa Mo & Harriet Mackenzie) and features English violin duos: EJ Moeran’s Sonata and Alan Rawsthorne’s Theme and Variations contrast with new works from McCabe, Matthews and Jim Aitchison - plus a 17th-century Sonata from William Croft.
CERVETTI - NAZCA AND OTHER WORKS NAVONA RECORDS NV5872
Born in Uruguay, Sergio Cervetti moved to Washington, DC, in 1962 and is now a US citizen. He attracted international attention when he won the chamber music prize at the 1966 Caracas, Venezuela Music Festival and from 1972 to 1997 he was Master Teacher of Music at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. During this time he composed over 100 works for the concert stage, dance, theatre and film, many of which were recorded and performed in venues and festivals in the United States and abroad. Cervetti’s works range from the acoustic to the electronic, skilfully blending folk elements, European tradition and minimalist aesthetics in ways that defy classification. NAZCA and other works, Cervetti’s second release on Navona Records, draws from the composer’s South American heritage to present four orchestral works on scale with the wondrous Nazca Lines in Peru. The Moravian Philharmonic Orchestra under conductors Vit Micka and Petr Vronský interpret the works with aplomb, and sopranos Alena Hellerova and Eva Kolkova provide moving vocals to texts by Juan Zorrilla de San Martin and Nezahualcoyotl. This is unique, inspiring music, written with originality and expertly crafted.
OLIVER KNUSSEN - SYMPHONIES 2 & 3 NMC D175
Oliver Knussen conducts the London Sinfonietta and soprano soloist Elaine Barry here in a recording of his Symphony No 2, a song cycle based on texts of Georg Trakl and Sylvia Plath. Michael Tilson Thomas conducts The Philharmonia Orchestra in Symphony No 3, a symphonic poem about Shakespeare’s Ophelia. The CD also features several other works by Knussen - Trumpets (for soprano and three clarinets, with soloist Linda Hirst) the exhilarating Coursing, the sprightly Ophelia Dances and Cantata (for oboe and chamber orchestra). Two other new releases from NMC include work by contemporary British composers. MICHAEL FINNISSY - STRING QUARTETS (NMC D180) Keeleyfeatures the excellent Kreutzer Quartet in recordings of Michael Finnissy’s Second Quartet (‘based on a compact Haydn model’ and originally intended to be the ‘Lark’) and his Third Quartet, which incorporates actual birdsong, both transcribed and recorded, as the composer’s response to the natural world and our place in it: the instruments gradually fade out, to leave only the sound of birds. ROB KEELEY - SONGS, CHIMES AND DANCES (NMC D179) has recordings of chamber works by Rob Keeley, formerly a student of Oliver Knussen at the Royal College of Music. The music includes Keeley’s evocative Skalkottas tribute Bells of Halkis and the Satie-esque ‘Gallic’ of trio Oregon Moods, as well as the title piece, performed by Rob Keeley (piano) and other fine musicians such as Richard Watkins (horn), Andrew Sparling (clarinet), Melinda Maxwell (oboe) and Robin Michael (cello).
THEA MUSGRAVE – AN OCCURRENCE AT OWL CREEK BRIDGE NMC D167
Thea Musgrave was born in Barton, Scotland, and studied at Edinburgh University and at the Paris Conservatoire with Nadia Boulanger. With a list of works that includes ten operas and two ballets, she is a composer whose creativity is based on a vivid dramatic instinct. Even her concert works may be conceived as dramatic scenarios between individual instruments and orchestral sections, the drama on occasions emphasised by staging instructions to the musicians. She adopted serialism in the 1960s, though her style has since evolved towards a robust and luxuriant lyricism. Rich, powerful musical language and this strong sense of drama have made Thea Musgrave one of the most respected of living composers. An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is Musgrave’s haunting ‘opera for radio’, a dreamlike tale of the American Civil War based on Ambrose Bierce’s short story about a Confederate sympathiser condemned to death by hanging. The CD also includes recordings of Green, written for 12 solo strings, and Wild Winter I, for solo voices and viol consort, both exploring different aspects of conflict past and present. Performers include the leading bass-baritone Jake Gardner, Gayle Hunnicutt (narrator), the London Sinfonietta conducted by Thea Musgrave, Red Byrd, Fretwork and Big Meetingthe Scottish Ensemble. Other new NMC releases include BIG MEETING (NMC D171), an extraordinary collage of voices, speeches, songs, brass bands and their electronic transformations, which composer David Lumsdaine constructed from location recordings of the 1971 Durham Miners’ Gala. ‘Emotionally affecting.’ - Wire. Robert Saxton’s THE WANDERING JEW (NMC D170) is the composer’s long-awaited radio opera, commissioned by the BBC. It’s a modernist take on the tale of the Wandering Jew – the shoe-mender condemned by Jesus to wander the Earth until the Second Coming after he refused to help him on his way to his Crucifixion. The opera introduces many legendary characters, following medieval and other myths, including Faust, Mephistopheles, Kundry and Wotan. Underneath its surface lies a structure relating to the annual cycle of Jewish and Christian festivals in eight scenes of sweeping orchestral and choral music, enhanced by post-production studio effects. MY BROKEN MACHINES (NMC D169) features Ed Bennett’s music, which has been described as ‘anarchic’ (Irish Times), ‘manic’ (Classical Music), ‘brutal’ (Guardian) and ‘beautiful’ (Gramophone). With strong rhythmic energy and extreme contrasts, his work combines acoustic, electronic and multimedia elements. Highlights include Ghosts, for amplified viola d’amore, Stop-Motion Music, and My Broken Machines, inspired by a childhood memory of an old fairground filled with ‘laughing policemen, mechanical fortune tellers, tests of strength, ghost trains and an array of other eccentric machines’.
REFLECTIONS NAVONA RECORDS NV5835
Reflections features the works of contemporary composers Alejandro CastanÞos, Jane O’Leary, Stephen Gardner, Judith Ring, and Si-Hyun Yi as performed by the Ireland-based Concorde Music Ensemble. The disc features a wide variety of compositions, including a duo that embodies the lightness and directness of traditional Klezmer music, an intricately layered tape piece, a series of free-tempo miniatures, and more. Concorde was founded in 1976 to promote new music on a regular basis. The group made its debut in the American Embassy in Dublin and has since performed widely throughout Ireland and Europe. Playing alongside the Concorde players on this disc is legendary Dutch bass clarinetist Harry Sparnaay. American born pianist and director of the ensemble Jane O’Leary conducts her own mysteriously beautiful composition, Reflections II. Other highlights include the exciting Angulos by CastanÞos, Judith Ring’s wonderfully titled (and brilliantly played) ‘…within an egg of space…’, and Si-Hyun Yi’s ‘The Magic Fiddle in the Desert’. This is adventurous, inventive and always surprising music performed by one of the world’s best modern music groups.
SUB CITY 2064 - ERDEM HELVACIOGLU
Erdem Helvacioğlu is one of Turkey’s leading electronic music composers and his works have been performed and broadcast all around the world. His compositions have been included in prestigious festivals such as the San Francisco Tape Music Festival, Seoul International Computer Music Festival, Musica Viva Festival, Primavera en La Habana and Third Practice Electro-acoustic Music Festival. He has received many international awards and as well as his electronic music he composes for theatre, film, multimedia productions. Helvacioğlu performs his music worldwide and produces major acts in Turkey. For his latest album, Sub City 2064, Erdem Helvacioğlu (electric guitar, GuitarViol) has joined with Sweden’s Per Boysen (flute, sax, EWI, fretless and dropped-B electrics) to create improvised music that could be the soundtrack to a science fiction horror film. Looping and sophisticated electronics produce deep, intelligent and beautiful cinematic compositions that at times are reminiscent of Stockhausen, Hassell, Eno, NIN and Floyd, but brilliantly transcend those and their many other influences. See also Erdem Helvacioğlu’s previous CD, Wounded Breath.
JOHN CAGE - MELODIES AND HARMONIES COL LEGNO WWE1CD20292
The pioneering American composer, philosopher, writer and Zen Buddhist John Milton Cage revolutionised music as much as anyone in the 20th century. He is probably best known for his controversial composition 4’33”, whose three movements are performed without playing a single note. He also composed what he termed ‘chance music’, where various elements are left to be decided by chance, and often wrote for non-standard musical instruments, utilising both homemade and ethnic instruments as well as ‘found objects’. His study of Buddhism led him to believe that meditative tranquility should be the goal of his music. For this album of music for violin and keyboard, Annelie Gahl (violin) and Klaus Lang (Fender Rhodes) have interwoven the movements of two Cage works: Six Melodies from 1950 and Thirteen Harmonies from 1985. Cage described the Melodies as a postscript to his String Quartet in Four Parts. Violinist Roger Zahab arranged the Thirteen Harmonies from movements of Cage’s 44 Harmonies - part of his 1976 composition, Apartment House 1776. The melodies are hymn tunes by American composers of the Revolutionary period, such as William Billings, Supply Belcher, Andrew Law and James Lyon, and Zahab selected 13 to reflect the 13 original colonies. The Melodies and Harmonies fit together perfectly together and Klaus Lang has based the pauses in between the tracks on a special procedure inspired by Cage’s method of composing. For the first time, Cage’s work has been interpreted on a Fender Rhodes and violin in this unique experiment resulting in music that is both transformational and joyful. ‘Do we need a celebration? We cannot avoid it, since each thing in life is continuously just that.’ - John Cage.
DAVID MATTHEWS - WINTER PASSIONS NMC D152
London born David Matthews was, like his younger brother Colin Matthews, also a composer, inspired by the ‘Mahler boom’ in the early 1960s. The works of Gustav Mahler began to enter the regular British repertoire for the first time, providing a tremendous creative impetus for both brothers. After studying classics at classics at Nottingham University and composition with Anthony Milner, David Matthews was helped and encouragemed by Nicholas Maw then for three years was associated with Benjamin Britten and the Aldeburgh Festival. Not until he was 25 did he produce a work that satisfied him sufficiently to be pronounced his ‘Opus 1’. He has largely avoided teaching, but to support his composing career has done much editorial work and orchestration of film music. He has also written occasional articles and reviews as well a book on Sir Michael Tippett, a composer he admires. This new CD features The Nash Ensemble, conducted by Lionel Friend, in a collection of world premiere recordings of works by Matthews. The composer’s soundworld is rooted in the English romantic tradition of Elgar and Vaughan Williams and this is evident in the dramatic settings of Pushkin (Winter Passions), Shakespeare (Terrible Beauty) and TS Eliot (Marina), all stunningly performed by baritone Stephan Loges and versatile mezzo Susan Bickley. The ravishing Terrible Beauty is scored for mezzo-soprano and seven players (flute, bass clarinet, harp and string quartet) and is largely a setting of Enobarbus’s famous eulogy of Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, describing her progress down the River Cydnus to Tarsus in a gilded barge, attended by servants dressed as sea nymphs and watched by all the citizens of the town. In Winter Passions Matthews conjures up a Russian scene with use of traditional Russian folksong and pizzicato on the strings sounding like the strumming of a balalaika. Other works here include two String Trios and a brilliant Clarinet Quintet. ‘The Nash Ensemble is still the best champion that any composer could hope to have.’ - The Times.
AKKOSAX - AN WERNER PIRCHNER COL LEGNO 30003
Werner Pirchner is among Austria’s foremost composers of the late 20th century, though he is perhaps still not as widely known as he deserves. His long musical association with AkkoSax has now inspired them to a posthumous tribute to this original and individualistic mind, who was at home as much in the worlds of jazz and theatre as in concert halls. Even many who have never experienced him live are familiar with his music, from the signature tunes he wrote for Ö1, the Austrian cultural radio station. It is fascinating to listen to they way the two instruments, the accordion and the saxophone, complement each other, recording a twofold dialogue: one between the musicians Siggi Haider and Hannes Sprenger, the other between the two of them and Werner Pirchner. He, like the two colleagues who here interpret his music, was always known for his skill in creating an intelligent balance between tradition and an innovative musical approach. These warm, mesmeric sounds are wonderfully evoked by Siggi Haider (accordions, percussions, voices) and Hannes Sprenger (saxophones, percussions, voices). The always adventurous Col Legno label has also released MUSIC FOR CHECKING E-MAILS (Col Legno 20289), a double album featuring electronic music by Wolfgang Mitterer. Born in 1958, Mitterer studied organ, composition and electroacoustics in Vienna and Stockholm. An electronics specialist, he is brilliant on the keyboard and on the slide controls, as well as being one of the Europe’s most innovative composers. His work oscillates between composition and open form, and apart from music for organ and orchestra, a piano concerto and an opera he has produced electronic pieces, conceptualised sound installations, and engaged in collective improvisation with diverse groups, developing a language of extremes, tension and complexity. The pleasure he takes in experimenting leads him to combine contrasting elements in the creation of unpredictable musical events.
EDWIN ROXBURGH - SOLOS AND DUOS NMC D161
Composer Edwin Roxburgh was born in 1937 in Liverpool. After playing oboe in the National Youth Orchestra, he studied composition with Herbert Howells at the Royal College of Music, as well as with Nadia Boulanger in Paris and Luigi Dallapicolla in Florence. After his studies he became principal oboist of the Sadler’s Wells Opera and taught composition and conducting at the Royal College, where he founded the RCM’s Twentieth Century Ensemble. Together with Leon Goossens he wrote the Menuhin Music Guide for the oboe. He has pursued a distinguished career as a conductor and soloist, specialising in contemporary repertoire, and is currently a visiting teacher at BCU Birmingham Conservatoire. He won a British Composers’ Award for Elegy for Ur and recently published his opera Abelard. The adventurous, sparky and sometimes ethereal works on this CD were inspired by the virtuosic skill of the performers featured on the recording: Lawrence Casserley (electronics), Sulki Yu (violin), Dimitri Murrath (viola) and Marie Macleod (cello). They are joined by the composer himself in his meditative and transcendent work for oboe and electronics, At the Still Point of the Turning World..., in which the sound of the oboe is fed through delay effects initially designed for a performance of Stockhausen’s Solo, here recreated by Lawrence Casserley. The other pieces are Soliloquy 3, Flute Music with an Accompaniment, Soliloquy 2, Soliloquy 4, Aube: a ballet for dancer and percussion, and Duologue for David.
THEA MUSGRAVE - TURBULENT LANDSCAPES NMC D153
Thea Musgrave was born in Barton, Scotland, and studied at Edinburgh University and at the Paris Conservatoire with Nadia Boulanger. With a list of works that includes ten operas and two ballets, she is a composer whose creativity is based on a vivid dramatic instinct. Even her concert works may be conceived as dramatic scenarios between individual instruments and orchestral sections, the drama on occasions emphasised by staging instructions to the musicians. She adopted serialism in the 1960s, though her style has since evolved towards a robust and luxuriant lyricism. Rich, powerful musical language and this strong sense of drama have made Thea Musgrave one of the most respected of living composers. These three works, recorded live at the BBC Proms in association with BBC Radio 3, bring together Turbulent Landscapes, inspired by Turner’s seascapes; Songs for a Winter’s Evening, setting Burns’ poems of a young woman’s life and loves; and Two’s Company, a concerto for percussion and oboe written for Evelyn Glennie and Nicholas Daniel. The BBC Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Osmo Vanska. Turbulent Landscapes is a sequence of six independent movements, each a response to one or more paintings by Turner: Sunrise with Sea Monsters, The Shipwreck (with a hint of Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture), Snow Storm: Hannibal and his Army crossing the Alps, The Exile and the Rock Limpet, The Burning of the Houses of Parliament, Sunrise, with a Boat between Headlands. Songs for a Winter’s Evening is a compelling song-cycle based on seven poems by Robert Burns, commissioned to mark the 200th anniversary of the poet’s death. The songs follow a girl’s awakening sexual maturity, capturing the flavour of Scottish traditional music and developing a more complex style as the girl becomes more deeply involved. Soprano Lisa Milne conveys the girl’s emotional journey with grace and sultry passion. Two’s Company was commissioned by the BBC for oboist Nicholas Daniel and percussionist Evelyn Glennie and is an exciting work that dramatises the contrasts between two very dissimilar instruments before bringing them harmoniously together.
WOUNDED BREATH – ERDEM HELVACIOGLU AUCOURANT RECORDS AUREC 0899
Wounded Breath, is a collection of five imaginative and rewarding electro-acoustic works as Erdem Helvacioglu manipulates sounds that he generates by playing an acoustic guitar through a series of processors and programs, creating wonderfully atmospheric environments for the listener to explore. Below the Cold Ocean takes us on a dive below the Arctic Ocean with its frozen water and eerily clicking ice. Dance of Fire features the hypnotising sound of fire. In the playful Lead Crystal Marbles we hear the sound of glass marbles dropping, bouncing on the floor then going their separate ways. In the Blank Mirror we see a man's blurred image in the mirror but who is this stranger? In Wounded Breath an elderly lady lies in her death bed in a dim room with her memories, illusions, dreams and last words. This outstanding music takes you on exciting journeys into strangely beautiful and magical places.
ALTERED REALITIES – ERDEM HELVACIOGLU NEW ALBION NA131
Altered Realities, features solo acoustic guitar and live electronics, all recorded in real-time directly to DAT (Digital Audio Tape) without any overdubs, mixing, editing, post-processing, or the use of previously recorded material. All of the textures were created based only on the acoustic guitar signal with no other sound source used during the recording. Within these textures, there are long sustaining single notes, beautiful shimmering chords and rhythmic clusters. The moment that is recorded is the moment that we hear on this CD’s seven tracks, with imaginative titles such as Bridge to Horizon, Sliding on a Glacier, Dreaming on a Blind Saddle, Pearl Border and Ebony Remains. Simultaneously gentle, wonderfully spacey and melodic, Erdem Helvacioğlu’s adventurous music is a richly rewarding experience.
MAGNAR AM - SONAR 2L 51
SONaR creates a celestial sonic world of harps, strings and angels. Composed and performed specially for the surround sound format, Norwegian composer Magnar Åm’s adventurous, accessible music is a powerful experience that also features the harpist Ellen Sejersted Bødtker, the Oslo kammersolister string-sextet, and singers Hildegrunn Riise and Grex Vocalis. ‘SONaR is a sound signal sent out to create an echo from whatever it may encounter and thus reveal the unknown...The music changes from being a phenomenon which appeals primarily to the mind and imagination to something which evokes a physical experience to a much greater degree.’ - Magnar Åm. Following the Grammy-nominated Divertimenti from 2L, this groundbreaking Hybrid SACD + music Blu-ray box set includes three pieces: vere meininga - concerto for harp and strings; det var mjukt - for soprano and harp; and dette blanke no - concerto for harp and angels. The compact disc looks like a normal CD and plays on all standard players and computers. ‘It made a deep impression through the unique way in which the harp with its sonorous, fragile, naïve, gentle and dramatic qualities is used, providing a dimension that I had always looked for. The electric harp with all its effects carries on a dialogue with its acoustic counterpart, as if the new and the ancient world were melting together.’ - Ellen Sejersted Bødtker. The sound quality is extraordinarily vivid and shows that Blu-ray may be as crucial to the future of audio recording as it is becoming to vision.
BERIO - ORCHESTRAL WORKS COL LEGNO WWE 1CD 20281
The acclaimed composer and conductor Luciano Berio was born in Oneglia, Italy, in 1925 and studied at the Milan Conservatory before working for the Italian Broadcasting Corporation. He taught in America and Europe, ran the electro-acoustic department of IRCAM in Paris and founded tempo Reale, an institute for new music, in Florence. He was also Musical Director of the newly founded Regional Orchestra of Tuscany, Artistic Director of the Maggio Musicale in Florence and was an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Music in London. Berio's compositions, noted for experimentation and the use of electronic sounds, are performed regularly throughout the world. Part two of col legno's Wien Modern Edition is dedicated to Luciano Berio orchestral works: Chemins I and IIb, Concerto and Formazioni, which were recorded live at the Wien Modern Festival in 2007. Luciano Berio decided to ‘comment’ on various of his notoriously complex Sequences for solo instruments from an orchestral perspective. Chemins and Chemins IIb are adaptations of the Sequences for harp and viola. In his Concerto for two pianos and orchestra the composer chooses a differentiated and episodic approach to unravel the tangle of relationships between the orchestra’s instruments and the two solo pianos. In Formazioni, Berio completely upsets the traditional arrangement of a classic symphonic orchestra and creates fascinating new sound mixtures in the process. The ‘oscillating inner polyphony’ (Berio) of these mixtures is skillfully unraveled in the pointed and highly differentiated interpretation by Stefan Asbury and the RSO Vienna. These are luminous performances of music by one of the most important composers of the second half of the twentieth century.
LUIGI NONO – PROMETEO COL LEGNO 20605
The Italian composer and intellectual Luigi Nono was born in Venice in 1924 and was a member of a wealthy artistic family. Nono began music lessons with Gian Francesco Malipiero in 1941 at the Venice Conservatory where, amongst other styles, he acquired knowledge of the Renaissance madrigal tradition. After graduating with a degree in Law from the University of Padua, he was given encouragement in composition by Bruno Maderna and Hermann Scherchen. Together with Stockhausen, Boulez, Berio, Ligeti, Goeyvaerts and Kagel, Luigi Nono wrote some of the twentieth century’s most challenging and music. Nono best work came towards the end of his life after he had been introduced to the Venice-based philosopher, Massimo Cacciari, who began to have an increasing influence on the composer’s thought during the 1980s. Through Cacciari, Nono became immersed in the work of many German philosophers, including Walter Benjamin, whose ideas on history formed the background to the monumental Prometeo. Written in 1984, this ‘tragedia dell’ascolto’, originally conceived for the San Marco in Venice, was premiered in the San Lorenzo in Venice. But it is the second version, which Nono reworked the following year, that has since been widely performed. Its texts were based on various interpretations of the ancient myth of the eternal wanderer, but the intelligibility of the words was less significant, since in music it was the sound of words that was of prime importance. Similarly, Nono conceived music-theatre as a sonic landscape; accordingly Prometeo was subdivided into ‘islands’ of slowly changing performing and listening activity. This landmark recording is the first time Nono’s Prometeo has been captured in surround sound on CD. The 115 page graphic score allows you to comprehend text and music separately as well as together. In addition to the complete text, it comprises a guide to the work and detailed instructions. This double SACD also includes a comprehensive 83-page booklet in German, English and French.
MAX RICHTER – 24 POSTCARDS IN FULL COLOUR FATCAT RECORDS
Born in 1966, Max Richter trained in composition and piano at Edinburgh University, at the Royal Academy of Music, and with Luciano Berio in Florence. The Richter family moved to the UK from Germany when Max was a young child, leaving the wider part of his family distributed around Germany. This sense of a lack of roots had an effect on his musical formation. After finishing his studies, Richter co-founded the contemporary classical ensemble Piano Circus, where he stayed for ten years, commissioning and performing works by Arvo Pärt, Brian Eno, Philip Glass, Julia Wolfe and Steve Reich.. Richter was also pro-active in developing the group’s use of live sampling. He has also collaborated with Mercury Prize winner Roni Size on the album In The Mode and produced the acclaimed Vashti Bunyan comeback album, Lookaftering. Richter’s three solo albums to date include the excellent SONGS FROM BEFORE, featuring the distinctive voice of Robert Wyatt reading the words of Haruki Murakami. His latest project, the intriguingly-named ‘24 Postcards In Full Colour’, is an experimental collection of miniatures. The pieces are a series of variations scored for strings, piano and electronics, and is available on limited edition vinyl and as a download only release. His magical music is dazzlingly imaginative yet wonderfully accessible, ranging from ethereally beautiful impressionistic pieces to adventurous, mind-expanding electronica. Richter plays solo piano and his unique musical palette also includes a string quintet, 16 track 2 inch tape, transistors, shortwave radio, vinyl clicks, dust, scratches and rumbles, and electric guitars. Brilliant!
JAMES DILLON - THE SOADIE WASTE NMC D131
Scottish composer James Dillon was born in 1950 in Glasgow and has sometimes been linked with Brian Ferneyhough and Michael Finnissy as part of the ‘new complexity’ school. He studied art and design, linguistics, piano, acoustics, Indian rhythm, mathematics and computer music, but is self-taught in composition. Honours include first prize in the Huddersfield Festival (1978), the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis at Darmstadt (1982) and three Royal Philharmonic Society composition awards, most recently for his Fourth String Quartet. He has taught at Darmstadt and been a guest lecturer and composer at various institutions around the world. Following her acclaimed recording of James Dillon’s Book of Elements (NMC D091), Noriko Kawai returns to NMC - joined by Irvine Arditti and the Arditti Quartet in their first recording for the label. This disc spans Dillon’s career - from the short early piano caprice Dillug-Kefitsah (beautifully played by Kawai) and the phantasmagorical sequence Traumwerk, for violin and piano, to brooding piano duo black/nebulae - with pianist Hiroaki Takenouchi - and piano quintet the soadie waste, subtitled ‘wedding receptions, dances and housie housie’ and evoking a boozy celebration in a dancehall on the outskirts of Glasgow, near where James Dillon grew up. The establishment was built on wasteland that had been a chemical factory. ‘Residual fumes...would seep through the floorboards during a hot dance session,’ Dillon writes, but this quintet is exuberantly physical music, suggesting healthy rowdiness rather than a chemically traumatised populace. This album is full of energetic, highly individual music from one of Britain’s most important contemporary composers, whose influences range from the Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters to Stockhausen and Messiaen.
JOHN CAGE – ONE 7 [FROM ONE 13] & ONE 8 OGREOGRESS
Towards the end of his life, John Cage found himself much in demand for new pieces and with his assistant, Andrew Culver, he developed new software that would enable him to write music more quickly. These final works, written between 1987 and 1992, came to be known as the Number Pieces - each work’s title consists of a number written out as a word and indicating the number of performers for which it was composed. Where there are several works for the same number of performers, Cage would add a superscript numeral. This fifth and final in an exemplary OgreOgress series featuring the complete Number Pieces for strings and/or percussion contains the world premiere recording of Cage’s One7 [from One13] and is first to include the complete final works for cello. One7 serves as a structural basis for the sound material originally intended for One13 and One8 utilises a curved bow which enables the cellist to sustain beautiful, quiet chords. The other four CDs in the series feature premiere recordings of One6 and One10 (with violinist Christina Fong); Three2, Twenty-Three, Six and Twenty-Six (with Christina Fong, percussionist Glenn Freeman and cellist Karen Krummel); Four4 (Glenn Freeman brilliantly performs Cage’s final, mesmerising 72-minute work for percussion); One4, Four [all versions] and Twenty-Nine (with Fong, Krummel, Freeman and bassist Michael Crawford). These are fine recordings of music by one of the most challenging yet rewarding of Twentieth Century composers.