> The Hoxton Thirteen NMCD076 [HC]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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New works by thirteen young composers from Hoxton New Music Days.
Composers' Ensemble, Peter Wiegold
Recorded: St Silas, Chalk Farm, London, January 2001
NMC D 076 [67:32] Fullprice


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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 a start!

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 quite enjoyable.

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 New Millenium.

Hubert CULOT

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