Jonathan HARVEY (b. 1939)
Madonna of Winter and Spring. Percussion Concerto. Song Offerings.
Peter Pommel (percussion);
Penelope Walmsley-Clark (soprano); Netherlands Radio Philharmonic
Orchestra/Peter Eötvös (Madonna, Percussion Conc); London
Sinfonietta/George Benjamin (Song Offerings).
through MusicWeb for £12.00 postage
This disc offers the ideal complement to the première of Mothers
Shall Not Cry at this year's Proms on August 2nd (see my review
in Seen and Heard). Anyone who was impressed by the new piece and
wants to find out more about Harvey's individual and fascinating sound world
should make this compilation a priority purchase.
Instead of the pantheism of Mothers Shall Not Cry, Harvey focuses
exclusively on the Christian element in Madonna of Winter and Spring,
an orchestral piece from 1986 (which, fittingly, also received its première
at the Proms). It is 'composed in honour of Mary, mother of Jesus', and the
portion devoted to her makes up 17 minutes out of the work's 36. The use
of electronics added to the orchestra gives the experience an otherworldly
tinge. Descent (the second movement) is literally that, from the highest
pitches down into the next movement, Depths. In the final extended
eulogy to Mary, Harvey effects a hypnotic, holy stasis that is truly meditative
The live performance of the Percussion Concerto is given by Peter Pommel
(the piece is dedicated to Evelyn Glennie). Pommel is a real virtuoso and
enjoys the considerable challenges. Again, Harvey's electronically influenced
aural imagination is in evidence throughout: witness the way in which the
string chords of the second movement seem to come in and out of focus.
The four settings of Rabindranath Tagore that make up Song Offerings
bring out Harvey's tender side, the intimate recitations of the first song
movingly conveyed by Walmsley-Clark. Benjamin brings a composer's ear for
sonorities and the London Sinfonietta responds accordingly.
A thrilling, involving disc that should be in the CD collection of anyone
interested in British music of today.