Jonathan Sacks is known as a Hollywood film composer and arranger,
with titles such as Mr Holland’s Opus
X Files: I Want to Believe
. This disc incorporates a range
of his concert pieces, from small-scale chamber works to orchestral
The opening track is Incantations: Book V
, an orchestral
work spanning almost ten minutes. The Hollywood style is instantly
recognizable, and Sacks’ tonal language is combined with
textural devices such as arpeggiated strings and building brass
chords to create a constantly moving surface.
The first of the chamber works is Litanies,
for clarinet, piano, violin and cello. In the form of a theme
and variations, the harmonic language is more complex here, with
an expressive use of dissonance and a satisfying range of instrumental
colours within the ensemble. There are obvious parallels here
with Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time
although this does not reach the emotional and spiritual intensity
of Messiaen’s masterpiece, it might form an interesting
companion piece in a recital. Ghost Horses
the film-style tonality, and is an early (1992) work for the
same quartet with the addition of voices. This is a very different,
more simplistic sound-world, and the piece was enjoyable but
not particularly memorable.
The title track of the disc, 5th
(s)eason, takes its
title from a found inscription at the Sutro Baths, a pool complex
near San Francisco. The anonymous poem was partially obscured,
and the missing letters are represented in the sleeve-notes in
brackets. The poem itself is dramatic and poignant, and ideal
material for the basis of a piece of music. Scored for two pianos,
Sacks uses an expressive language, with moments of energy combined
with elements of calm reflection.
explores the character of the astrological
sign, and opens with an atmospheric and expansive theme worthy
of a quality sci-fi movie. There are some nice moments in this
piece, and Sacks demonstrates his skill as an orchestrator, especially
in the climactic moments, as the listener is swept along in the
majesty of the music. The Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra gives
a clear, and intense performance which is highly enjoyable.
The final track is a 1978 tape piece, called Sirian Blue.
Sacks takes us into a fascinating world of manipulated sound,
extending beyond the stereotypical early electronic blips and
bleeps to create melody and harmony within an ethereal reverberant
The playing on this disc is consistently good and Sacks’ music
shows a variety of well-formed compositional techniques, in a
range of contexts.