Ian WILSON (b.1964)
Man-o’-War (2001)a [12:08]
An angel serves a small breakfast (1999)b [16:14]
Winter finding (2004/5)c [20:50]
Licht/ung (2004)c [11:39]
Rebecca Hirsch (violin)b
RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra/David Porcelijnab, Gerhard Marksonc
rec. National Concert Hall, Dublin, 26-27 November 2007, 27 November 2006, 4 December 2006
RTÉ LYRIC FM CD126 [60:52]
The titles of many of Ian Wilson’s works often point to some extra-musical stimulus, be it literary, pictorial or other, without ever implying any precise programmatic intentions. So it might be tempting to experience Man-o’-War as a vivid depiction of a mighty battleship, the more so that the music is not without its martial moments and threatening brass and percussion assaults. The work, however, is also first and foremost a brilliant orchestral showcase. It also functions as a compact concerto for orchestra - and a quite successful one too.
Wilson’s second violin concerto, An angel serves a small breakfast, the title of which comes from a lithograph by Paul Klee, is a beautifully lyrical piece of music characterised by a singing solo part and transparent, subtle scoring. This is a work in which the soloist and the orchestra engage in a friendly dialogue rather than oppose each other. Although the solo part is quite demanding, this is definitely not the type of bravura concerto full of instrumental fireworks. Rebecca Hirsch for whom the concerto was composed possesses a beautiful tone perfectly suited to the intense lyricism of the piece.
Winter finding is Wilson’s take on the subject of the four seasons. It is indirectly the composer’s response to Cy Twombly’s paintings Quattro stagioni; indirectly because the composer commissioned Lavinia Greenlaw – librettist of his two operas – to write a four-part poem mediating between him and Twombly. The poems are printed in the insert notes. The writer “introduces several specifics of place and drama” on which the composer builds his work, again without any real attempt at description but with a wish to suggest musical climates. The music unfolds without break and the different seasons are not mentioned as such in the score but nevertheless account for clearly delineated sections.
As far as Licht/ung is concerned, Wilson turned to a series of photographs of atomic bomb damage in Nagasaki by Shomei Tomatsu. The most striking feature of this score is that in spite of some more menacing episodes, most of the music is remarkably restrained.
All four works recorded here clearly display Wilson’s orchestral mastery and vivid imagination. It’s all immensely appealing.
As was the case with the earlier releases in RTÉ’s Composers of Ireland series, performances and recording are first rate as is the accompanying booklet.
Although clearly of our times Wilson’s music has a real expressive strength and, for all its internal complexity, remains generously accessible. This is a very fine release that should appeal wholeheartedly to anyone willing to investigate accessible, well crafted and sincere music-making.

Hubert Culot
A fine cross-section of Ian Wilson’s recent orchestral works.