Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Cornelius CARDEW (1936-1981)
The Great Learning: Paragraph 2 (Jan 1969) [21.45]; Paragraph 7 (Apr 1969) [20.30]
David BEDFORD (b.1937)

Two poems for chorus on words by Kenneth Patchen (1966) [4.21+8.30]
The Scratch Orchestra/Cornelius Cardew (Cardew)
Chor des Norddeutschen Rundfunks Hamburg/Helmut Franz (Bedford)
Rec 1969-1970
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON 471 572-2 [51.77]


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The Echo 20/21 series has provided DG with the excuse to reissue tapes of avant-garderie from the 1960s and 1970s. This was the territory evangelically explored at the London Roundhouse and which, at the time, alienated a generation and narrowed the enthusiast base for classical music. The melodic-romantic tradition so battered by the Glock-Schoenberg group has, since the mid-1970s, swept back into the ascendancy. We can look back on it now from the vantage point of a much more catholic, inclusive and liberally stocked market. In fact neither the melodic hegemony nor the avant-garde elders have made much of an impression on the concert hall!

Cardew established the Scratch Orchestra from professionals and amateurs and their families. Its ranks included Cardew himself, John Tilbury, Howard Skempton and Gavin Bryars.

The Great Learning is one of the four classics of Confucianism. The first chapter is said to have been written by Confucius himself. It is in seven 'Paragraphs' and these supply the structure for a heptameron of which only two elements are represented here. Paragraphs 2 and 7 in their entirety each last an hour. This disc offers about a third of each work.

The Second Paragraph is a rapid, rhythmic piece in which Ligetian vocal chatter reacts with the ragged raging ostinato of African tomtom-style drums. That chattering vocal effect is prefigured in Holst's Hymn of Jesus and even earlier in Tallis's 40-part Spem in Alium. As the voices gradually fall away the rhythmic drumming becomes less ragged and more sharply focused. The Seventh Paragraph is a study in vocalism and bell decay harmonics - a deconstructed Full Fathom Five from RVW's three Shakespeare settings. It has a steady liturgical swell and swing.

Bedford sets two love poems by American poet Kenneth Patchen: O now the drenched land wakes and The great birds. The words are printed in the booklet. These two pieces are quite brief. Equatorially luxuriant with detail and episode by comparison with the Cardew, the singing resembles the same composer's Star Clusters, Nebulae and Places in Devon; melodic yet with an openness to using the entire palette of vocal effects.

The Hamburg Bedford recording sounds very clear. Perhaps it is the nature of the music. The Cardew has a more distanced remote spatial concert-hall quality. No attempt was made, back in those bosky days, to make of this the sort of drums-spectacular we get in the Shchedrin Carmen ballet.

Of the two composers' works I prefer the Cardew especially Paragraph Seven which shows contemplative minimalist sympathies close to those of two of Cardew’s teachers: Cage and Stockhausen. Desperately unfashionable voices now; perhaps the axis of the musical world will move again. Whether it will ever move far enough to deliver a complete Cardew Paragraph or the whole of The Great Learning remains to be seen.

Rob Barnett

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