London Sinfonietta Jerwood Series (2)

0 of 5 stars

Dark Room
Fifth Station

Mark van de Wiel (clarinet)

Valérie Hartmann-Claverie (ondes martenot) & Bruno Perrault (ondes martenot)

Louise Hopkins (cello)

London Sinfonietta
Martyn Brabbins

Hayes and Fujikura recorded live at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London on 14 February 2004; Greenwood recorded live at Royal Festival Hall, London on 27 March 2005

Reviewed by: Ben Hogwood

Reviewed: June 2006
SINF CD2-2006
Duration: 38 minutes

The London Sinfonietta’s enterprising Jerwood Series continues with three concertante works.

Morgan Hayes’s piece has the stamp of experience. Commissioned by Jouko Heikura, who also suggested the work’s appropriate title, for Mark van de Weil, Dark Room has begins disparately, with taut interjections from pizzicato violins, harp and piano. When the clarinet arrives it makes one very distinctive phrase-shape its own, soaring above the busy accompaniment, through to the central section where its motifs are punctuated by snatched chords from the ensemble. Where Hayes really makes an impact is in the final pages, and these are particularly rewarding on headphones as the soloist moves around the stereo picture in dialogue with an oboe, moving into the background as the ensemble remains in relative calm. Whilst never quite resolving, Dark Room makes a strong impact.

Jonny Greenwood’s love of the ondes martenot is made clear in his booklet note, and it’s a pair of these instruments that are brought to the front in the atmospheric Smear. Notes of similar pitch gather together at the beginning but the Radiohead guitarist surprises with a recurring figure on strings, establishing G major with unexpected shafts of light. Greenwood explores the textural possibilities of the two ondes martenot with sudden rapid figures, then in buoyant unison with the upper strings, barely drawing breath at times.

Finally Dai Fujikura’s Fifth Station deals with the concept of spatial awareness. Only two instruments occupy the stage – one of which would seem to belong to cello soloist Louise Hopkins, who dominates the work melodically. Just as important are the often startling effects and colours Fujikura achieves, with the opening featuring briefly agitated bursts from the cello countered by ghostly held-notes from the ensemble. Particularly striking is the rich sonority of the bass clarinet, placed forward in the picture, while Fujikura sometimes gives the effect of paper blowing in the wind, a feature of the highly evocative middle section. The sound-picture is a little odd, but as a spatial experience it rewards the listener. The ending feels a little too congested, but here as elsewhere the playing of the Sinfonietta is beyond reproach.

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