All thirteen pieces recorded here were written for
the Composers' Ensemble (eight of them for the Brighton Festival). All
the composers were asked to write a five-minute piece for small mixed
ensemble. Most pieces were repeated for Hoxton
New Music Days in 2000.
To be quite frank, all composers but one are totally
new to me, which is why I was delighted to be able to review this release.
As may be expected, all pieces are fairly short, some particularly so,
and may thus only give some idea of their respective composer's present
achievements. As may be expected too, the stylistic range is quite wide,
from minimalism up to more complex writing. Finally, it must be said
that most of the composers, still in their twenties, have already built
up a sizeable output and achieved a number of performances, some of
these resulting from commissions by prestigious ensembles such as the
London Sinfonietta and the London Symphony Orchestra. Not too bad for
Patterning (2000) by Tansy
DAVIES (born 1973), Saturnine (2000) by Jonathan
POWELL (born 1969), Constellations (1998/9)
by Mary BELLAMY (born 1971), Buoy
(1998) by Morgan HAYES (born
1973) and Partners in Psychopathology (1998) by Sam
HAYDEN (born 1968 and thus "the old man" here,
whose work is published by FABER in their Millenium Series) may be more
"modern" in idiom and instrumental writing and, thus belong
to a more radical trend, though all these pieces are superbly crafted
and on the whole quite accessible.
On the other hand, some pieces are quite readily accessible:
Caught (1998) by Jonathan COLE
(born 1970), Green Plastic, Pink Oil and Water (1998)
by Rachel LEACH (born 1973), Deep
in your Coral Caves (2000) by Alastair
STOUT (born 1973) and A Beast of Burden (1998)
by Julia SIMPSON (born 1977) are
particularly attractive pieces in which the composers have obviously
put much emphasis on colourful textures and on instrumental playfulness
tinged by some light humour (e.g. the delightful pieces by Julia Simpson
and Rachel Leach). To some extent, Stout’s piece sounds almost impressionistic.
Cadence (2000) by Oscar
BETTISON (born 1975) is the only piece here that might be
minimalist in that it is entirely based on a single idea (a downward
phrase) repeated several times with some variations.
Los Rábanos (1998) by Richard
BAKER (born 1972) and Rat-Race (2000) by Alison
KAY (born 1970) are somewhat more elusive but nonetheless
This most welcome collection ends with Chanctonbury
Ring (2000) by Deborah PRITCHARD
(born 1977) which is a delightful Scherzo and a tour de force
of instrumental velocity.
So, in short, a most welcome and interesting release
providing an avowedly incomplete survey of recent works by young British
composers who are all likely to progress in one way or another. What
is quite clear from this selection is that each composer has a considerable
technical mastery and has found a way to express his- or herself in
a quite convincing way. Only the future will tell what they will be
able to achieve, but the prospects are most encouraging.
The Composers Ensemble and Peter Wiegold are dedicated
supporters of their younger colleagues’ work.
Warmly recommended to all those who want to keep abreast
of the musical "State of the Nation" at the beginning of the