> The Calm. Inspired 20th Century classics [JW]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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The Calm. Inspired 20th Century classics.
Paul HONEY (b 1963)

Jesus and Morning from the sound track of the film Two Days, Nine Lives (2000)
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)

Quatuor pour la fin du temps;
Louange á l’Éternité de Jésus
Louange á L’Immortalité de Jésus
Arvo PÄRT (b 1935)
Spiegel im Spiegel (1978)
Erik SATIE (1866-1925)

6 Gnossiennes (1890-1897)
Le Fils des étoiles – pastorale kaldeenne; three preludes for piano (1891)

Forgiveness – Movement 2 from Awakenings (Songs of the Earth) (1995)
James MACMILLAN (b 1959)

Angel (1993)
John ADAMS (b 1947)

Alone…again or at last
The Artemis Sinfonietta (Honey)
Caroline Dearnley, cello and John Lenehan, piano (Messiaen Louange á l’Éternité de Jésus)
Rebecca Hirsch, violin and John Lenehan, piano (Messiaen Louange á L’Immortalité de Jésus; Pärt Spiegel im Spiegel)
John Lenehan, piano (Satie)
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Joseph Curiale (Curiale)
John York, piano (Macmillan)
Simon Harley, saxophone and Liz Burley, keyboards (Adams)
Recorded Gateway Studios Kingston on May 1999 (Messiaen and Satie) and various locations, London between 1996-2000
BLACK BOX BBM1057 [71.00]

This is a "mood album", one that recycles the Black box catalogue but does so in an incoherent and unhelpful way. I’ve decided to ignore the booklet notes, all seventeen lines of them, and the premise of the disc – "a transfixing collection of music by contemporary composers" (Erik Satie? Messiaen?) – and concentrate instead on the conjunction of musics.

Paul Honey is represented by two pieces from his film music for Two Days, Nine Lives. I’ve not seen the film but the first piece shamelessly robs the tomb of Barber’s Adagio and the second is romantic slush. Joseph Curiale also indulges big band romanticism in his second movement from Awakenings (Songs of the Earth) – in his case Copland is the model. James Macmillan is represented by a solo piano work, Angel, spare and evasive and unlikable whilst John Adams gives us his innocuously noodling fluff - a saxophone and piano piece called Alone. Arvo Pärt is here with his celebrated Spiegel im Spiegel and in this company it sounds like the work of a genius. Thank God for Erik Satie - though what the poor man is doing here I can’t imagine unless it’s to act as a wraith-like reproach to the mediocrity surrounding him. His Gnossiennes and Le Fils des étoiles are played by John Lenehan and that’s good news. These performances are derived, I think, from a collection previously on Earthsounds from the early 1990s. I was strongly impressed by Lenehan’s way with Satie and he brings a wide-ranging subtlety that is undeniable. He demonstrates an acute sensitivity in the First of the Gnossiennes and in the Fourth, for example, his sense of fluidity and fluency is notably impressive. He avoids metrical pitfalls as adeptly as he avoids a monochrome response. In the Sixth and final piece he conjures up just the right sort of humour – his deadpan drollery is convincingly done. The Fils des Étoiles are equally adept – he is a Satie player of significance. He also accompanies Caroline Dearnley and Rebecca Hirsch in their movements from Messiaen – where he is good at the brittle profile of the cello piece. Hirsch turns on the opulent, almost Hebraic tonal resources in her performance and if she suffers a little playing stratospherically high it’s of small account.

Such pleasure as I got from this disc derives almost entirely from the consonance between piece and performer – that means Lenehan in Satie and Messiaen and maybe Hirsch in Pärt. Significantly perhaps only one composer is our contemporary in a temporal sense.

Jonathan Woolf

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