London Sinfonietta Jerwood Series (1)

0 of 5 stars

Tansy Davies
Stuart MacRae

John Wallace (trumpet)

London Sinfonietta
David Porcelijn [Davies]
HK Gruber

Recorded in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, on 10 May 2003 [MacRae] and 19 February 2005

Reviewed by: Rob Witts

Reviewed: April 2006
Duration: 32 minutes

The second release (following a tribute to Oliver Knussen) on the London Sinfonietta’s own label is the first in a Jerwood Foundation-supported series devoted to the music of young British composers, and while just over 30 minutes of music might seem a trifle mean, this coupling offers a sparky contrast between two very different, though equally compelling, voices.

As the title suggests, neon by Tansy Davies is an uncompromisingly urban piece underpinned by the insistent pulse of dance music. Over this pulse, Davies plays complex rhythmic games with interlocking patterns in a potentially endless series of permutations. A volatile instrumental line-up includes a fizzing electric keyboard and guttural bass clarinet. This is Stravinsky for the club generation, modernist collage built from twisted funk riffs; deceptively complex music that repays repeated listening.

Stuart MacRae’s Interact offers musical narrative of a more apparently straightforward kind, pitting soloist John Wallace against the Sinfonietta brass in fast-paced rough-and-tumble. From the opening fanfare there is a real sense of urgency to the first section, in which the ensemble moves around the stage, enhancing the game-like character; this is balanced by a static, reflective second half, in which the trumpet, now muted, buzzes through dense textures like a firefly through mist.

MacRae’s work is imaginative, characterful and engaging. neon, which was recorded by the BBC, sounds noticeably fuller than Interact, which was not; while perfectly clear, and capturing the spatial interest of the piece well, the in-house recording is not always flattering. Performances are as impeccable as one would expect, and this disc inspires high hopes for the rest of the series.

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