Orchestra of St Johns
Benjamin Wallfisch [Escape Velocity]
Michael Collins (clarinet)
Orchestra of St Johns
John Lubbock [Concertino]
Gould Piano Trio [Lucy Gould (violin), Alice Neary (cello) & Benjamin Frith (piano)] with Garfield Jackson (viola) [Spectra]
Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
Benjamin Wallfisch [Speed]
Trio Tagarela [Amy Whittlesea, Emma Murphey & Lisette da Silva (recorders)]
Anita, Raphael and Simon Wallfisch (cellos) [Requiem]
O Duo [Owen Gunnell & Olly Cox (marimbas)] & York 2 [John and Fiona York (piano duo)]
Jemima Philips (harp) [Nocturne]
A mixture of live and studio performances recorded between 2002 and 2006
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: February 2007
CD No: QUARTZ QTZ 2049
Duration: 77 minutes
Born in 1979, Benjamin Wallfisch is making a real name for himself as a composer and a conductor. My one experience of him prior to receiving this CD was the premiere of Escape Velocity, which he conducted, at one of the BBC “Proms Saturday Matinee” concerts in Cadogan Hall (London) in which all the other music was by Mozart (John Lubbock conducting).
Escape Velocity signalled a considerable composing talent, music that is both atmospheric and suspenseful. The numerous effects and colours remind of three Polish composers: Lutoslawski and Penderecki and, further back, Szymanowski, the latter summoned through ecstatic violin solos, beautifully played here by Jan Schmolck. The music’s suggestive power is considerable, not least the allusion of travelling ever-higher (escaping) and speeding into the unknown. Wallfisch’s notation is explicit, not least with the extensive (two-player) percussion section, which includes nine different and specific cymbals, waterphone, watergong (medium!), and two scaffolding poles (the playing instructions for which are quite detailed). It is that Proms performance that is used for this CD.
Any danger that the promise shown by Escape Velocity might be a one-off is soon put to rest with the remainder of this recorded programme. Concertino (for clarinet) is spiky, lyrical and intense; and, then, drama and engaging rhythms inform Spectra. Speed (for symphony orchestra) is energetic and punchy, vividly scored (at times reminding of Pierre Boulez’s Notation No.2) and vibrant with a reflective still-centre that travels to an indefinable realm before regaining initial momentum … yet, there’s a surprise in store!
Completing the disc are four short works that (mostly) appeal in different ways. Trio is for three recorders and, listening suggests, some electronic additions; seemingly not, though, for the timbres are all created by the three musicians on different types of this instrument – a very imaginative piece. Requiem is also ‘for three’, this time a trio of cellos, all Wallfisch family members, Benjamin’s grandmother, father and brother; a sustained lament for the Holocaust, which Benjamin’s great-grandparents did not survive but which his grandmother, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, did – playing her cello in Auschwitz and on this recording. Impulse requires a foursome (two marimbas and piano/four hands) for a jazzy and ‘cool’ outing, and Nocturne creates many harps from one and extends the instrument’s range (and positioning) in a digital extravaganza that could well allure.
Outgoing and personal, engaging and challenging – Benjamin Wallfisch has the knack of communicating without making it obvious. This release should have a broad appeal.