This is the
first recording of the Isis Ensemble and, on the strength
of these performances, it is a fine group of string players.
The programme is interesting but there’s a bit too much
cake and not enough greens to make a really satisfactory
Rohan Kriwaczek’s Bee
Sting in Rohan’s Kitchen gets things off to a rollicking
start. It’s a very enjoyable bit of fluff and would grace
the opening of any concert of string music. Jacques Cohen’s Yigdal is
an extended work which has some lovely writing in it,
but it also has quite a lot of Bartók as well. Salomon
Cuellar’s Suite is a very assured work for a sixteen
year old, bright and breezy, but there’s insufficient
substance to sustain eleven minutes of music.
at an Exhibition has, over the years, attracted arrangements
by too many composers to remember. This new version of The
Old Castle – arranged by Jacques Cohen – is rather
good. The muted strings give the piece an eerie quality
which suits the music very well. The notes tell us that,
when time permits, Cohen intends to do the whole suite – I
wonder how he’ll do the Grand Gate at Kiev with
such a small string body? This might not be such a good
of the disk come last. Malcolm Arnold’s witty Variations
on a Ukrainian Folksong was written for piano. This
new version is by Roger Steptoe – a composer we should
hear more of. Whilst removing some of the witticism and
making certain portions a bit po-faced he injects some
real fun into the piece which couldn’t be had on a solo
piano. The 1st variation, for instance, uses
a very silly solo violin – the work was written for a violinist
friend of Arnold’s. The mock seriousness is all the more
pointed by the use of strings because of the instrument’s
ability really to sustain chords and make attacks which
immediately fall away. The arrangement also makes the music
sound more “English” and puts it firmly in the Tippett Double
String Concerto and Britten Frank Bridge Variations camp.
To end, a beautiful
work by father and daughter. Father Andrzej died before
completing his setting of a verse by Jerzy Pietrkiewicz
for chorus. As he had previously arranged his unaccompanied
choral work Song to the Virgin Mary for string sextet,
his daughter was asked to complete the work for strings;
first for quartet and later for orchestra. It’s a most
moving expression of faith, Andrzej’s outer sections displaying
his usual mystical vision and Roxanna’s middle section,
more troubled and disturbed. A very satisfactory end to
an interesting concert.
misgivings about some of the pieces this is a most enjoyable
disk, the first three pieces certainly entertain even though
they lack any real personality. The Arnold, and especially
the Panufnik, make their mark and show exactly how rewarding
music can be created from the simplest of means.
is excellent, and the performances full of commitment.
The notes are good and the presentation attractive.