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Julian ANDERSON (b. 1967)
Khorovod (1994) [13:00]; The Stations of The Sun (1998) [18:15]; The Crazed Moon (1997) [13:27]; Alhambra Fantasy (2000) [11:18], Diptych (1990) [20:25]
BBC Symphony Orchestra/Oliver Knussen
London Sinfonietta/Oliver Knussen
rec. Maida Vale Studios, Jan 2000, Watford Coliseum, December 2001
Produced in association with the BBC. DDD
ONDINE ODE 1012-2 [76:49]

Recordings are only snapshots, not the wider picture of reality that is music. This is the first recording dedicated solely to Julian Andersonís work, which is an anomaly, given his importance as a composer. Many thanks to Ondine and by association the BBC who have provided a public service by issuing this excellent disc.

Here we have Andersonís first major orchestral piece Diptych, written in 1990. Itís easy to hear how it won him a prize from the Royal Philharmonic Society. For such a youthful composer, it is a work of surprising originality. From the first bars, we enter a world of mysterious, intriguing sounds, first darting and tentative, then expanding into great arcs of colour and light. The first part, Parades, builds up wave upon wave of sound, using all parts of the orchestra with confidence. It then subsides into near silence as the second part, Pavillons en líAir, begins. This movement reflects the themes of the first in reverse, the extreme pianissimo of its first minutes masking a progressive layering of sound upon sound, culminating in a glorious crescendo. Itís the density of these layers that makes the piece so distinctive. The crescendo gives way to an even more impressive coda of chromatic effects. You are left wanting more, but tantalisingly, the music skips away.

Fortunately, there is plenty more. Last year, his Book of Hours was performed at the South Bank and highly acclaimed. Thereís nothing quite so recent on this disc, however, which is more of a retrospective, and just as welcome. It starts with Khorovod from 1989-94. The name refers to a Russian round-dance where three or four pitches recur in endless variation. Anderson develops the idea of a small cell of notes repeated with endless variation, further layering the sounds with different, contrasting tempi, some of which whirl around, further changing the pace. He uses folk instruments, too, an oblique reference to Russian and other non-western music. At one point, thereís a poignant violin passage, not quite a solo, but perhaps a reminder that the violin has an ancient role in traditional music. Seconds later the violin melody disintegrates as the instrument joins the orchestra again in a decidedly modern sounding mix, trumpets and drums leading in a kind of wild dance. Simple cells are again the building blocks of The Stations of the Sun, though here they are used to create a different effect. The instrumental lines are longer and more complex. The final section pulls together the different elements as if by centrifugal force, swirling ever more slowly to a conclusion.

The Crazed Moon (1997) was written in memory of a friend who died at the age of only 24. The title comes from a poem by W.B. Yeats and also alludes to a lunar eclipse Anderson witnessed in 1996. The music centres on a long progression in which the whole orchestra plays a basic melody, but with different variations. The overall impact is mysterious, as if half submerged in unnatural light. Itís disturbing, especially toward the end when tolling bells are heard and distant trumpets echo in the silence.

Anderson worked with Tristan Murail and Gérard Grisey, to whom Alhambra Fantasy is dedicated. Islamic architecture doesnít use image for decoration. Instead, it uses abstraction Ė developing patterns from small materials, combining them in intricate, complex forms, almost as if generated by mathematical algorithm. Just as mosaics are built from myriad, tiny blocs of single colour, Anderson uses clear tones and half-tones to build up chromatic configurations that seem to glow with intense refractive light. The Islamic idea of paradise is a garden of infinite refinement of colour, shape and light. Fountains are part of the Islamic ideal, too, for when light shines through waterdrops in the heat, it throws up rainbows: a powerfully potent image with which to describe the elegance of this music. It begs for imagination on the part of the listener. The effect of sound on the mind is fascinating. Iíve been listening to this piece as meditation: others will find other felicities, no doubt.

Oliver Knussen, The London Sinfonietta and the BBC Symphony Orchestra have long been associated with Andersonís music, and these performances are probably definitive. You could always get this music from the scores (publishers: Faber) but performances on this level are inspiring in themselves. Since only a minority get to go to live concerts and catch broadcasts - thank goodness we still have the BBC - recordings will bring this wonderful, inventive music to the audience it most surely deserves.

Anne Ozorio


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