Aureole etc.




Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line




Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


CD REVIEW

Some items
to consider

 


Enjoy the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra wherever you are. App available for iOS and Android


Mahler symphony 6 Nott


Vaughan Williams Symphony 3 etc.


Lyrita New Recording


Lyrita Premiere Recordings

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage

Lyrita 4CDs £16 incl.postage


Decca Phase 4 - 40CDs


Judith Bailey, George Lloyd


BAX Orchestral pieces


CASKEN Violin Concerto

Schumann Symphonies Rattle


Complete Brahms
Bargain price

 

 

 

 


Buy through MusicWeb for £11.00 postage paid World-wide. Try it on Sale or Return
You may prefer to pay by Sterling cheque or Euro notes to avoid PayPal. Contact for details

Musicweb Purchase button

 

Harrison BIRTWISTLE (b. 1934)
The Fields of Sorrow for two sopranos, chorus and sixteen players (1972) [9:58]
Verses for Ensembles for five woodwind, five brass and three percussion (1969) [28:13]
Nenia: The Death of Orpheus - a 'dramatic scene' for soprano, three bass clarinets, clarinet, piano, prepared piano and crotales (1970) [17:45]
Jane Manning (soprano); London Sinfonietta/David Atherton; The Matrix/Alan Hacker (Nenia).
rec. January, May 1973, Kingsway Hall, London. ADD
first released in 1974 on Decca LP HEAD 7
recording made in association with British Council and in presence of the composer
LYRITA SRCD.306 [56:08]


Close of The Fields of Sorrow

Experience Classicsonline

 

Now that Lyrita appear to have reissued the majority of their own archive, itís gratifying to see that they are turning their attention to some old Decca/British Council releases from the 1960s and 1970s that would otherwise be languishing in the vaults. The Decca Headline series contained some classic performances of then avant-garde works by contemporary composers; it featured works by international figures such as Messiaen, Lutoslawski and Henze in addition to home-grown talent such as Birtwistle, Bedford and Musgrave. The present CD is a straight reissue of HEAD 7 and contains three key works by Birtwistle from the late 1960s/early 1970s. It offers a useful snapshot of the composerís style as he moved from the harsh expressionism of his early works (typified by the opera Punch and Judy) to his increasing fascination with the Orpheus legend, itself reflected in a softer-grained, relatively lyrical approach. On this CD The Fields of Sorrow and Nenia represent, broadly speaking, the latter approach; Verses for Ensembles contains elements of the more angular, rigorous Birtwistle.

Jane Manning joins the London Sinfonietta and Chorus for The Fields of Sorrow; word setting is unconventional, being divided across the forces, often syllabically. The performers are also distributed across the sound-stage, creating together with the bell-like sonorities a ghostly, disembodied effect. This effectively reflects the mediaeval poem which Birtwistle sets, depicting the journey of two souls through a gloomy forest in Hades.

By contrast with Verses for Ensembles we have what marks perhaps a culmination of his early, expressionist years. Hieratic brass and woodwind writing, contrasted with ebullient percussion, throw us immediately into a very different sound-world. The work encapsulates many characteristics of Birtwistleís "early" period; his use of verse and refrain forms as a structural device, his fascination with procession or ritual, and a deployment of contrasting instrumental resources as a way of articulating the structure for the listener. The instrumentation is set into sharp relief by the composerís spatial distribution of his forces on stage. Thus two woodwind groups sit to the left and right of the stage, with brass and percussion towards the rear. Birtwistle also requires players to move physically to key positions on stage at significant moments in the piece. The sounds themselves contrast harsh, aggressive brass and woodwind writing with softer passages. Verses for Ensembles is by no means an easy work to assimilate, but as ever with Birtwistle the music repays repeated study. The performance, by the forces for which it was written, is everything we could wish for. Perhaps one or two extra tracking points on the CD might have helped those unfamiliar with the music to find their bearings more clearly.

The final work on the CD, Nenia Ė The Death of Orpheus, was composed the year after Verses. The title refers to a Roman funeral dirge and the goddess invoked; Orpheus and Euridice are the subjects of the ritual. Birtwistle now groups his instrumental forces according to timbres, rather than the contrasting sounds he created in Verses. The instrumental music is dominated by the sound of bass clarinets. The structure of the piece, the instrumental forces, and the vocal style Birtwistle requires of his soloist - Jane Manning again - are immensely fluid, and immensely challenging, but at all times dictated by the text. Once again the performances are astonishing in their virtuosity.

As the composer in his early years moved from one set of preoccupations to another, reflected by a development in his actual compositional style, itís misleading to suppose that each compositional phase is entirely self-contained, without reference to what came before or after. Birtwistle himself felt that each of his pieces consisted of "layers" reflecting both previous interests and pointing the way forward to future developments. On first hearing the extreme dissonance of Verses for Ensembles may appear to contrast sharply with the softer-grained approach of The Fields of Sorrow; but the composerís spatial distribution of his forces in both works provides a stylistic link. Nenia, as we have seen, contains the preoccupations with ritual that characterised many of his earlier works. What comes across very clearly - and here I echo a word Paul Conway uses in his excellent booklet notes - is the composerís stylistic integrity right across his output.

Ewan McCormick

see also review by Rob Barnett

 

 

 

 

 


Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb


Donate and get a free CD

New Releases

Naxos Classical

Hyperion

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Prťalable
Alto
Arcodiva
Atoll
CDAccord
Cameo Classics
Centaur
Hallť
Hortus
Lyrita
Nimbus
Northern Flowers
Redcliffe
Sheva
Talent
Toccata Classics


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample
 


EXPLORE MUSICWEB INTERNATIONAL

Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews

 

Discographies
   Composer
      Composer surveys
   National
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
.
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

Interviews
With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site

Nostalgia

Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Comment
Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure

Announcements

 

Community
Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Reviewers
Pat and present

Helpers invited!

Resources
How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips


Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Publishers
Other links
Newsgroups
Web News sites etc

PotPourri
A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Questionnaire    
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Dictionary
Magazines
Newsfeed  
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools




Return to Review Index

Untitled Document


Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.