The ink of Anne Ozorio’s
excellent review of the all-Anderson Ondine release (ODE
1012-2 - see review) is hardly dry; and, lo! here comes another
generously filled disc entirely devoted to Anderson’s recent music.
It thus considerably broadens ones appreciation of this still-young
composer’s substantial achievement. Indeed, all the works
here were written when Anderson was Composer-in-Association
to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra between 2001
and 2005. Significantly, too, they were composed not only
for the Birmingham orchestra, but also for its satellites,
the CBSO Chorus and the BCMG.
its aims and means, Imagin’d Corners for five
horns and orchestra has much in common with Turnage’s Four-Horned
Fandango, although the latter is lighter in mood.
Four of the five soloists move around the audience and the
orchestra, so that the overall perspective is constantly
changing. The various facets of the horns’ register greatly
add to the ever-changing whole, to great colouristic and
expressive effect. Consciously or not, Anderson also seems
to pay tribute to Tippett, something that I also heard in
some of the other pieces here.
Eden opens with an arresting gesture: a slow melody passed between solo
viola and solo cello, playing without vibrato, evoking the
sound of Renaissance viols. The orchestra soon takes over
with powerfully evocative bell-like phrases; but the viola
and cello music of the opening keeps reappearing at various
stages, albeit with variations. However, the global impression
is festive, brightly optimistic, although the music eventually
fades away calmly.
American Choruses sets
gospel hymn texts; but one should not expect a comparatively
light-hearted treatment in the vein of Tippett’s Five
Negro Spirituals. Anderson sets the texts in
his own personal, intensely serious way without using,
let alone alluding to, existing hymn tunes; far from
it. The music is complex, exacting and clearly tailored
to the skills of a crack ensemble. The CBSO Chorus rise
magnificently to the occasion; and their thoroughly drilled,
clearly articulated and immaculate rendering is simply
stunning. For all its complexity the music is strongly
expressive; and I consider this marvellous work as one
of the finest – if not the finest – in this selection.
Anderson’s Symphony draws
on a painting by the Finnish artist and Sibelius’ friend
Akseli Gallen-Kallela who was much inspired by the Kalevala.
True the very opening of the work with its indeterminate
sounds almost graphically depicts pieces of ice drifting
on the water’s surface. However, as it unfolds, the music
continuously suggests what John Fallas aptly describes as
the “initial sense of movement-within-stasis”; and turns
out to be more closely argued and integrated than it might
have seemed at first. In fact, Anderson’s Symphony is a mighty
monolith blending tightly knit and powerfully evocative music.
title of Book of Hours for ensemble and electronics
refers to the famous Les très Riches Heures du
Duc de Berry and the La Dame à la Licorne tapestries,
although the music is by no means descriptive or programmatic.
The composer suggests that Part One is concerned with time
and Part Two with memory; and both are accordingly based
on much the same material, albeit viewed from different angles.
Part One opens with an utterly simple gesture: the first
four notes of the major scale - actually derived from a piano
piece Old Bells - continuously varied and expanded
again often suggesting bell-ringing. Part Two opens with
the same gesture, albeit completely blurred as if played
on an old crackling 78 rpm disc. The music builds up to a
climax that “pushes the music to breaking point” and explodes
in a furious electronic cadenza in which the argument seems
to disintegrate. The music, however, rests on a short dance-like
coda. In his excellent notes, John Fallas writes that the
second part is more continuous than the first. I do not entirely
agree and find that – for all its kaleidoscopic character – Part
One is on the whole much more satisfying. However, I readily
admit that repeated hearings may prove me wrong in this respect. Book
of Hours is an impressive and often beautiful piece,
although it is slightly disappointing. Maybe I was expecting
too much from a piece for ensemble and electronic, a medium
I am much attracted to. Indeed, electronics are used with
much discretion, taste and efficiency in Part One, but I
am less convinced by their use in Part Two. Anyway, this
is a substantial piece to which I will return.
splendid release on all counts: excellent performances, very
fine recording and detailed notes, and – most importantly – marvellous
music is contemporary music of the sort dear to me: complex
and demanding, but ultimately often beautiful and strongly
expressive. Not to be missed.
see also review by Anne Ozorio
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