Colin Matthews, Max de Wardner, Evis Sammoutis, Christopher Mayo, Toby Young, Elizabeth Winters, Larry Goves, Raymond Yiu, Anjula Semmens and Edmund Finnis
Kim B. Ashton
as though birds
Brown Leather Sofa
The Calligrapher’s Manuscript
London Symphony Orchestra
Recorded 3 & 4 June 2015 at LSO St Luke’s, London
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: March 2016
CD No: LSO DISCOVERY LSO5070
Duration: 76 minutes
This stimulating release is every bit as impressive as its predecessor. What’s more, it is superbly played and recorded, clear, faithful and dynamic, with stunning impact when required.
The disc’s first twenty-five minutes are allocated to Panufnik Variations. The Theme is taken from Andrzej Panufnik’s Universal Prayer, which has been arrestingly orchestrated by Colin Matthews (he is heavily involved with the Panufnik Composers Scheme), and he also contributes the first and last (eleventh) Variations, both of which teem with compelling incident. The nine sections that come in-between (they are roughly two minutes each) – in the order of Max de Wardner, Evis Sammoutis, Christopher Mayo, Toby Young, Elizabeth Winters, Larry Goves, Raymond Yiu, Anjula Semmens and Edmund Finnis – are remarkably unified one to the other, yet each composer worked independently. Panufnik Variations makes for a substantial whole, and is an engaging and satisfying listen.
The nine works that follow each showcase yet-more talented composers. P-p-paranoia by Duncan Ward is intense and powerfully detailed, “a growing nightmare of thought”, and is not without what to these ears are playful moments. Alastair Putt’s Spiral – constructed to reflect the Fibonacci Sequence, each of the continuous sections being shorter and faster than the last (an imperceptible development) – has a dark thrall to it as well as an engaging intense lyricism.
I was a little less taken with Aaron Parker’s Captured, somewhat monotonous if with some ravishing colours and expression. Spindrift by Kim B. Ashton is a restless seascape, agitated and dangerous, leaving only vapour at its close, whereas Granular Fragments by James Moriarty is mosaic-like in construction, many sonic “grains” contributing to a complex inevitability the core of which remains enigmatic.
Elizabeth Ogonek’s (lower-case) as though birds is full of strength and happenings, brilliantly orchestrated, and, not for the first time with her music, the ear is entranced. Brown Leather Sofa seems an unlikely title for a piece of music, and Leo Chadburn doesn’t let on. It’s a comfortable essay, mind, with juicy harmonies, long-held notes and poetic phrases, if with a bit too much reliance on them over six minutes, during which a greater need for variety became apparent.
The final two works are Tmesis by Bushra El-Turk and Matthew Kaner’s The Calligrapher’s Manuscript. The former has its roots in Arabian music and is punchy and conflicting before a ghostly image emerges. The Kaner is the longest single work here, at twelve minutes (Panufnik Variations aside, the other scores tend to be about four each, with the Putt double that). The Calligrapher’s Manuscript is inspired by the 17th-century Bavarian, Johann Hering, whose work is experimental. Kaner opens his impressive opus in tintinnabulating and shrieking style, suggesting the mysteries of the universe. The music increases in energy (tom-toms fuelling further incident) until the work’s second half arrives (without interruption) with nocturnal string-writing, slow and mysterious.
Each composer here represented is imaginative and confident, and of course they benefit hugely from the Panufnik Scheme, having the LSO on scintillating form, and from the dedicated conducting of François-Xavier Roth. This release is enthusiastically recommended for the music, the performances and for the outstanding quality of the recorded sound.