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Margaret BROUWER (b.1940)
Aurolucent Circles (2002)a [27:07]
Mandala (2001) [11:55]
Pulse (2003) [6:03]
Remembrances (1996) [15:00]
SIZZLE (2000) [4:58]
Evelyn Glennie (percussion)a
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra/Gerard Schwarz
rec. Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, July 2004
NAXOS 8.559250 [65:05]

Aurolescent Circles, here performed by its dedicatee, covers truly virtuosic territory.  Evelyn Glennie has an entire arsenal massed for her performance and uses it all.  The orchestra is, for the quieter sections of the piece, divided into two concertino groups, one of strings and harp with percussion, the other of woodwinds.  The overarching impression of this recording — and to me the mark of a greatly successful one — is that this piece must be incredibly interesting and exciting to experience live.  Without the benefit of a score it is difficult to see the extent of Glennie’s achievement here, which is great, transferring effortlessly from instrument to instrument over the half hour duration.  For those not used to hearing percussion concertos — there aren’t many out there — this could be a hard sell, but one soon warms to the musicality of hitting things, and, in this recording, the fantastic artistry of Evelyn Glennie.
Mandala begins with a melodic line that seems almost pulled note-for-note from early church music.  Performed on the trombone, the orchestral ensemble picks it up; the drone of the first notes held by the lower strings.  Brouwer indicates in her notes that this music moved in interwoven circles that spiraled inwards and in truth this piece is not at all extrovert.  It is an introspective, immanent piece, from its meditative opening statement to the final measures of its second movement. The outburst toward the end reminds one, for those who have heard him, of Giya Kancheli’s disturbingly primal symphonies, filled with percussion and alarm.
Significant is the use of the brass, which immediately calls up the ancient instruments of many worlds, especially central Asia.  Percussion imitates falling water.  The woodwinds become the restless winds that blow the intricate sand mandala away.  Not apparent in this recording is the indication in the score that the brass be situated in the auditorium so that, in spiraling, the music spirals also around the audience. This is yet another Brouwer piece that will simply need to be heard live.  The recording here is stellar, but on conventional disc, this remains only an approximation of the live experience.
Pulse consists of multiple metrical parts all tied to one overarching beat.  A piece that has a constant itch to move.  Earnestly played by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the ending, either through score or by performance, seems somehow unconvincing.
Remembrances of 1996 begins as an elegy, then starts again as the opening music to a film — the intent to this piece is the portrayal of a life and it does this ably — the opening sense of loss, then the recollection of what one once was, and then, on the basis of the life that was lived, a great sense of hope.
SIZZLE, on the heels of my review of Moravec’s Time Gallery, is a piece that concerns itself with time, specifically clocks: the focus on business, while still holding a sense of longing for something less fleeting.
Excellently recorded, very well performed, I side with the other reviewers of this disc in recommending it highly.
David Blomenberg

see also reviews by Glyn Pursglove and Herbert Culot


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