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The Jerwood Series 6
James OLSEN (b. 1982)
Chameleon Concerto (2004)a [11:46]
Christian MASON (b. 1984)
In Time Entwined, In Space Enlaced (2008)b [10:17]
Larry GOVES (b. 1980)
Springtime (2008)c [7:46]
Claudia MOLITOR (b. 1974)
untitled 40 [desk-life] (2008)
Kenneth HESKETH (b. 1968)
Detail from the Record (2001)d [14:40]
Clio Gould (violin)a; Rolf Hind (piano)a; Juliet Fraser (soprano)c; London Sinfonietta; David Porcelijna, Baldur Brönnimanb, Oliver Knussend
rec. (live) Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, London, 19 February 2005 (Olsen), 2 December 2008 (Mason, Goves, Molitor) and 30 May 2006 (Hesketh)
Experience Classicsonline

It seems that this release in the London Sinfonietta Jerwood line is the last one, which is a pity since this series allowed works by younger composers to be heard on a more or less permanent basis. This is important because contemporary composers have often to be happy with a first - and lone - performance. A repeat performance is a near-miracle. I will not say that any new work deserves several performances but certainly needs them. If it does not, that is where the record plays its role to the full. This - as far as I am concerned - amply justifies the aims of the Jerwood Series. The London Sinfonietta, too, has played - and still does - a significant part in encouraging young composers to write for them and in performing them with dedication and commitment. The London Sinfonietta’s fortieth anniversary in 2008 was celebrated by some further commissions that feature here:. Christian Mason’s In Time Entwined, In Space Enlaced, Larry Goves’ Springtime and Claudia Molitor’s untitled 40 [desk-life]. The London Sinfonietta also gave the first performance of the revised version of James Olsen’s Chameleon Concerto and of Kenneth Hesketh’s Detail from the Record.

In his short notes James Olsen mentions that he was dissatisfied when the original version of Chameleon Concerto was first performed so he seized the opportunity to revise and partly rewrite it when the occasion arose. The London Sinfonietta gave the first performance of the revised version scored for chamber orchestra and that is what we have here. Chameleon Concerto is a double concerto for violin and piano of sorts, but one in which the soloists do not necessarily stand as outsiders confronting the orchestra but rather “blend both into each and into an ever-changing orchestral background”. This is a quite attractive and accessible work, though some may find the music a bit eclectic with its blend of jazzy undertones, folk-like inflections (the end of the work that may bring East-European folk music to mind) and - at times - echoes of Tippett (the coruscating string counterpoint at about eight minutes into the work redolent of Tippett’s Corelli Fantasia). I enjoyed this enormously.

Christian Mason’s In Time Entwined, In Space Enlaced is scored for small ensemble, in fact three trios - each consisting of one woodwind, one percussion and one string player. The music sounds somewhat more modern but never extravagantly so, and the composer’s fine ear for arresting sonorities is quite often brilliantly and tellingly displayed. It seems that “the ethereal sound of thirty-six handkerchief-harmonicas, placed throughout the audience” should be heard occasionally, but the recording does not make this quite obvious. This is a very minor reservation about an otherwise highly inventive score written for the ensemble’s fortieth anniversary

Goves’ Springtime, too, was one of the three works commissioned to mark the London Sinfonietta’s fortieth anniversary. This is a beautiful setting of an eponymous poem by Matthew Welton with whom the composer has already collaborated on several occasions. A sense of distance - suggested by the words of the poem - is achieved by the presence of two separate ensembles (one acoustic and one amplified) as well as by a pre-recorded vocal line counterpointing the live singer in an often enticing dialogue. This is one of the undoubted successes in this release and a truly beautiful work that deserves to be heard again and again.

“… the sounds of writing down the music - the pencil moving across the paper, the sharpening of that pencil, the moving of a ruler… I wanted to bring them into the music and celebrate their importance in the production of a work” (the composer’s words). This is what Claudia Molitor’s untitled 40 [desk-life] is about. The work opens with noise-like sounds, some isolated notes played on the piano - the composer’s trying-out some idea?. From these noises eventually emerges a beautiful slow tune played by the cello but noises have the last word. The composer had probably a few things to erase and amend. I must admit that I was not entirely convinced by this piece that probably makes a stronger impact in a live performance. It should have made so at its first performance accompanied by a film showing the score being manipulated. This was the third fortieth anniversary commission.

Kenneth Hesketh’s Detail from the Record draws on material from episodes of a larger work The Record of Ancient Matters, a puppet ballet based on Japanese folk tales. The work is in four short sections played without a break. This beautiful work is undoubtedly the most readily attractive and accessible one in this most revealing release. The music is colourful and tuneful (yes, tuneful!) and the composer draws many imaginative textures from a somewhat larger ensemble than any of the other works recorded here.

Similar selections may be uneven, inevitably so I should think, but there is much fine music in this one. It is thus much more than merely “interesting” for here are a few composers whose future works will be worth watching out for.

Hubert Culot

Reviews of other Jerwood series releases
Volume 1
Volume 2
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