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In Sunlight - Pieces for Madeleine Mitchell
Michael NYMAN (b.1944)
On The Fiddle (1993) [13.26]
James MacMILLAN (b.1959)
Kiss on Wood (1994) [7.31]
A Different World (1995) [7.50]
Brian ELIAS (b.1948)
Fantasia (1986) [10.57]
Nigel OSBORNE (b.1948)
Taw-Raw [7.04]
Stephen MONTAGUE (b.1943)
Folk Dances (2002) [9.34]
John WOOLRICH (b.1954)
…that is Night (1995) [5.57]
Anthony POWERS (b.1953)          
In Sunlight (1993) [8.30]
Stuart JONES
Kothektche [4.07]
Madeleine Mitchell (violin)
Andrew Ball (piano)
Recorded at Wathen Hall, St Pauls School, Barnes, May 2004 except Taw-Raw and Kothektche, recorded at the Church of St Edward the Confessor, Mottingham, London, Decembers 2004
NMC D098 [76.15]


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.   

Brian 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 abandon.

Here 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 violinist-commissioner.

Jonathan Woolf




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