All these pieces
owe their genesis to violinist Madeleine Mitchell, who has been
active in commissioning new work for a number of years now.
There is in fact just above a decade’s worth of British commissions
here from composers of differing sympathies and aesthetics.
Nyman’s film-derived On The Fiddle will be familiar to those
who have seen Peter Greenaway’s Prospero’s Books, A
Zed and Two Noughts and The Cook, the Thief, his Wife
and her Lover. Juxtaposing lyricism and Nymanesque attaca
these are immediately recognisable examples of his composition.
The most fascinating textually in this form is the third with
its intercut rapid folk figurations. MacMillan’s Kiss on Wood
is a paraphrase of the Good Friday Ecce lignum cruces in
quo salus mundi pependit – Venite adoremus and it has an
intense, soaring power that is so much a feature of MacMillan’s
music. His second work in this compilation, A Different World,
is a moving chorale – but when Mitchell redoubles her tonal
resources towards the piece’s end there is a moment of blackened
calamity that opens great vistas of uncertainty.
Elias’s Fantasia rather belies its title; it’s a resolutely
modernist piece, a mix of the peremptory and introspective spiced
with spare tremolandi. There are also, to me at least, tiny
reminiscences of Janáček’s piano writing and a bald question
mark at the end – quizzical, oblique, inferential. Nigel Osborne’s
piece might ring a bell; it’s evocative of Burmese fiddle music.
The way in which the tune emerges at the end is certainly somewhat
reminiscent of Britten’s Lachrymae. There are fun and
games in Montague’s Folk Dances in which even Mitchell joins
Andrew Ball at the keyboard – or rather in her case inside
the piano. Plenty of cimbalom effects here and driving momentum,
especially the passage over a pedal point. John Woolrich has
constructed a rather stark dialogue in his compact and terse
work but Anthony Powers is more expansive with his mix of delicate
haze and animated scurry. Stuart Jones’ Kothektche is for solo
violin and this tears into some Jewish-folk spirit with real
are some significant British composers in invigorating form;
excellent performances (naturally, from the dedicatee and Ball)
and well recorded. Enthusiastic and elucidatory notes from the