Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

£11 post-free anywhere

Special Offer
Complete Chopin
17 discs
Pre-order for £100


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas

Works for Voice by György Kurtág


Best Seller

Symphony for solo piano

Chopin Piano Concerto No.1

Schubert Piano sonata

Schubert symphony No. 9

Katherine Watson (Sop)

From Severn to Somme

Plain text for smartphones & printers

We are currently offering in excess of 52,619 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Support us financially by purchasing this disc from

John PICKARD (b.1963)
Piano Concerto (1999-2000) [30:58]
Sea-Change (1988-89) [17:11]
Tenebrae, for orchestra (2008-09) [24:33]
Frederik Ullén (piano)
Norrköping Symphony Orchestra/Martyn Brabbins
rec. Louis De Geer Hall, Norrköping, Sweden, March 2010; December 2011 (Concerto). DDD
BIS-CD-1873 [74:02]

This is a terrifically exciting follow-up to a disc released by BIS in 2008, recorded at the same venue and with the same orchestra-conductor team as here (CD-1578, review). Two of the works on that well-received album, The Flight of Icarus and Channel Firing, were even of the same 1990s vintage. In fact, there is a good reason for that: as Pickard reveals in the notes: they form a sea-themed trilogy with Sea-Change. That being so, it is rather surprising that BIS did not record and present the three together, coupling the Trombone Concerto (The Spindle of Necessity) from that album instead with the Piano Concerto and Tenebrae.
Nevertheless, the three works that have been brought together make for a programme that is full of energy and colour. Sea-Change is the most accessible, having been written for a student orchestra. The title refers to the tide-like currents that are layered into the score. The insistent cross-rhythms running throughout the work lead to an electrifying final few minutes that sound like a blend of Ravel's Boléro, Shostakovich's 'invasion march' from the Leningrad Symphony and the notorious snare drum attack in the first movement of Nielsen's Fifth Symphony.
Written a decade later, the Piano Concerto is decidedly more ambitious and virtuosic in scope, yet with its occasional jazz rhythms and graphic, essentially tonal idiom, the work could - and should - take its place in any concert programme of twentieth-century music. The slow, swirling, reflective central section prevaricates perhaps slightly too long, but Pickard's amazing ability to say things in new ways, without ever resorting to gimmickry, concertinas any longueurs, and the half-hour whizzes by. Frederik Ullén is excellent, but so too are the orchestra. The Norrköping Symphony and Martyn Brabbins may not sound like a guaranteed-knockout team, but here, as on the earlier Pickard disc, they have the technique, the muscle and the insight to make this a recording to cherish, especially with BIS's fine audio, which has plenty of width, depth and internal detail.
Much the most recent work from either BIS disc is Tenebrae, which gives the present album its title. Tenebrae is 25 minutes of deep orchestral tessitura punctuated by tumultuous crescendos that probably place it outside the comfort zone of those with more traditional musical tastes. The work received its UK premiere earlier this year in fact, with Brabbins conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Some listeners may have been lucky enough to hear that performance a few days later on BBC Radio 3. As the title suggests, Tenebrae is a twilit work and it is here that Pickard's affinity with Scandinavian orchestral music is most obvious. Tenebrae goes back to Sibelius, but it is Kalevi Aho, Sibelius's symphonic heir, who is most frequently brought to mind. Like much of Aho's orchestral corpus, Tenebrae is a loury, visceral masterpiece.
The booklet has notes by Pickard himself, detailed and well written, the occasional statement of the obvious aside: "the orchestra - who work together very much as a team throughout." Translations into German and French are supplied as usual. One real curiosity here: the small print ascribes copyright of the innocent-looking front cover text to Pickard. Have composers hit upon an ingenious way to actually earn some money from recordings?
Elsewhere, some of Pickard's equally excellent chamber music has recently become available on monographs from Toccata Classics (TOCC 0150) and Dutton (CDLX 7117, review), as well as a brass band behemoth on Doyen (DOY CD188, review).
Collected reviews and contact at