Harvey: Wheel of Emptiness; Tombeau de Messiaen; Death of Light/Light of Death; Advaya

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COMPOSERS: Harvey
LABELS: Cypres
WORKS: Wheel of Emptiness; Tombeau de Messiaen; Death of Light/Light of Death; Advaya
PERFORMER: Ictus
CATALOGUE NO: CYP 5604
Though this collection takes its title from the first work included here, Wheel of Emptiness, the most important score by Jonathan Harvey on the disc is undoubtedly Death of Light/Light of Death. It was commissioned by the mayor of Colmar in Alsace, to be performed on Good Friday in front of the famous Grünewald altarpiece in the city’s museum. The five short movements are commentaries on the five figures in the central panel of the painting – Christ on the Cross, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the apostle John and John the Baptist – and from an ensemble of just five instruments (three strings, oboe and harp), Harvey creates a sequence of vividly arresting portraits, economical and potent, which, like all outstanding chamber music, demands concentrated attention.

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The remainder of the works here all employ electronics in some form or another; Harvey has done more than any other British composer to explore the possibilities technology offers. A sampler supplies microtones to the whirling spectral organisation of Wheel of Emptiness; Tombeau de Messiaen sets the live piano in communion with a specially tempered version of itself on tape. In Advaya a solo cello is surrounded by transformed versions of itself, both recorded and in real time, while the dialogue between solo instrument and tape delay of Ricercare una melodia is offered in versions for oboe and trumpet. Andrew Clements