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London Sinfonietta £9.99

Louis ANDRIESSEN (b. 1939)

Very Sharp Trumpet Sonata (2002)a
Charles WUORINEN (b. 1938)

Fifty Fifty (2002)b
Alexander GOEHR (b. 1932)

Only two notes for Olly (2002)c
Detlev GLANERT (b. 1960)

Dancing Landscape (2002)d
Elliott CARTER (b. 1908)

Au Quai (2002)e
Hans Werner HENZE (b. 1926)

Olly on the Shore (2001)f
Augusta Read THOMAS (b. 1964)

Light the First Light of Evening (2002)c
Robert ZUIDAM (b. 1964)

I suppose a Fugue is out of the Question (2002)g
Colin MATTHEWS (b. 1946)

Flourish with Fireflies (2002)c
Julian ANDERSON (b. 1967)

Quasi una Passacaglia (2002)h
Mark-Anthony TURNAGE (b. 1960)

Snapshots (2002)c
George BENJAMIN (b. 1960)

Ollicantus (2002)c
Magnus LINDBERG (b. 1958)

Bubo bubo (2002)c
Bruce Nockles (trumpet)a; Rolf Hind (piano)bdfg; Nicolas Hodges (piano)bdh; Paul Silverthorne (viola)e; John Orford (bassoon)e; London Sinfoniettac; George Benjaminc
Recorded: (live) Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, June 2002

This is the first disc released on the London Sinfonietta’s recently-launched label. To a certain extent, this is a sampler, but much more interesting in that thirteen composers from various generations are represented here by short pieces written as fiftieth birthday tributes to Oliver Knussen and commissioned for the occasion. This is a distinguished roll-call of composers whose music is regularly performed by the London Sinfonietta, from Elliott Carter (born 1908) to Julian Anderson (born 1967). As may be expected, all these pieces are quite short (under five minutes), but each is fairly representative of its composer. Moreover, the programme is agreeably varied since several of these pieces are either for piano (Anderson’s Quasi una Passacaglia, Henze’s Olly on the Shore and Zuidam’s I suppose a Fugue is out of the Question) or for two pianos (Wuorinen’s Fifty Fifty and Glanert’s Dancing Landscape), whereas all the others, bar two, are for ensemble. Celebrating Knussen’s fiftieth birthday was obviously a cause for rejoicing, and the often humorous titles of the pieces and the composers’ not-too-serious notes witness a happy occasion, e.g. Henze’s Olly on the Shore (the title is clear enough, although the music has nothing to do with Grainger’s) or Goehr’s Only two notes for Olly (the other five for later). However, I cannot resist mentioning two examples that are worth telling. In his notes for Au Quai for viola and bassoon, Carter mentions that the title refers to a short story by Arnold Schönberg To the Wharfs (si non è vero, è bene trovato, or something of the kind). What is clear, though, is that the title may simply be read as OK (Oliver Knussen)! Louis Andriessen’s Very Sharp Trumpet Sonata for solo trumpet is, so the composer tells us, in three movements: the first movement is in sonata form with two contrasting themes, a development and a recapitulation, whereas the second is a three-part Lied form and the third a Presto. Very well, then, but it is all over in 1 minute and 11 seconds. A typical touch of Andriessen humour.

Some of the pieces, however, represent their respective composers in a nutshell. The short tributes by Colin Matthews, Mark-Anthony Turnage, George Benjamin and Magnus Lindberg are the finest examples. These are among my favourites, to which Glanert’s Dancing Landscape and Anderson’s Quasi una Passacaglia may safely be added, although – I hasten to say – the whole programme is attractive and enjoyable. In short, a splendid tribute to Oliver Knussen and to the London Sinfonietta. I now look forward to hearing more from this new label.

Hubert Culot

see also review by Chris Thomas

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