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Harrison Birtwistle: the best recordings

With a catalogue of works that combine a modernist aesthetic with ancient mythology, Harrison Birtwistle is one of Britain's foremost contemporary composers. Here, we name some of the best recordings of his music

Published: November 12, 2021 at 8:31 am

Punch and Judy

London Sinfonietta/David Atherton


NMC D138

Birtwistle’s violently ritualistic first opera, vividly delivered.

Melencolia 1, Ritual Fragment, Meridian

London Sinfonietta/Oliver Knussen

NMC D009

Exemplary readings of three contrasting representative scores.

The Mask of Orpheus

BBC Symphony Orchestra/Andrew Davis & Martyn Brabbins

NMC D050 (3 discs)

Superb realisation of Birtwistle’s most awesome work for the musical stage.

Birtwistle: Chamber Music

Lisa Batiashvili (violin), Adrian Brendel (cello0, Till Fellner (piano), Amy Freston (soprano), Roderick Williams (baritone)

ECM 476 5050

'The performances are definitive, they certainly sound confident.'

Angel Fighter

Andrew Watts (countertenor), Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts (tenor); BBC Singers; London Sinfonietta/David Atherton

NMC D211

Pungent pizzicato rhythms, visceral trumpets, groaning lower brass and winds shrilling overhead drive the three-way confrontation between taunting chorus, Jacob himself (a committed but occasionally strained Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts) and the Angel (a charismatic Andrew Watts).

Orpheus Elegies

Melinda Maxwell, Helen Tunstall, Andrew Watts

Oboe Classics CC2020

Austere lyricism exquisitely played and sung.


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