The Crazed Moon
The Discovery of Heaven
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Ryan Wigglesworth [The Discovery of Heaven]
Recorded at Southbank Centre, London – Royal Festival Hall on 19 March 2011 (The Crazed Moon), 3 December 2011 (Fantasias) and 24 March 2012
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: October 2013
CD No: LPO – 0074
Duration: 59 minutes
Strident fanfares introduce Julian Anderson’s Fantasias, written in 2009 for the Cleveland Orchestra. Jonathan Nott conducted the premiere. London audiences may recall a performance at the BBC Proms the following year, Semyon Bychkov directing the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. That brassy opener is exultant and is played brilliantly by the LPO musicians. Overall the 25-minute Fantasias (five in number), which may remind of Ligeti and Tippett at times, is kaleidoscopic in terms of its colour, exhilarating in its energy and captivating in its lyricism. This excellent performance under Vladimir Jurowski, superbly recorded with optimum impact and clarity, is to be treasured.
The Crazed Moon (1997) also opens to the sound of brass, distant trumpets this time (to which the score returns at the close), cueing music whose source of inspiration was two-fold, the sudden death of a young composer friend and a lunar eclipse. Following the trumpets, the memorial aspect is then lucidly established in a slow processional, rather reminding of Harrison Birtwistle’s The Triumph of Time. If the scoring is economic it is also varied, a lamenting clarinet with solo strings really captures the attention as the music eloquently builds to a powerful climax, activity, intensity and orchestral force increasing. Once again, the performance is notable.
The most-recent piece is The Discovery of Heaven, which at the March 2012 concert should have been conducted by Sir Mark Elder, but not having had the time to study the score as he would have wished, he stood aside (but conducted the rest of the concert, Delius and Elgar). Thus Ryan Wigglesworth led a virtuoso first account of music teeming with detail, and it is this performance that is captured here. Anderson reveals that the starting-points for The Discovery of Heaven are the eponymous novel by Harry Mulisch and gagaku, the ancient Japanese court music. In terms of the score itself, composed for a large orchestra, the first sounds are flurries of activity to breathe the shimmering ‘An Echo from Heaven’ into life. Then, centrally placed, ‘In the Street’ is angular, pulsating and at-times harshly orchestrated if with a diverting palette of colours. This is heady stuff, thrilling and unstoppable, until a moment of transcendence introduces ‘Hymns’ and radiant, Tippett-like writing for strings, which seems like a rainbow after a storm.
The 20-minute The Discovery of Heaven is impressive, the music coming to rest, enigmatically. As in the other works preserved here – and doing Julian Anderson (born 1967) proud – the rendition seems totally secure, and there is no doubting the vividness of the recorded sound. Applause is helpfully removed and the long silences between the works are much appreciated.