WORKS: Serenade in C, Op. 41; Fantasy-Pieces on Schumann’s Heine ‘Liederkreis’; Liederkreis, Op. 24
PERFORMER: Toby Spence (tenor), Ian Brown (piano)Nash Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 66930
Given the prominence of such larger-than-life extravaganzas as the Second and Third Concertos for Orchestra, it’s easy to forget that Holloway’s multifarious and perhaps less-familiar works for smaller forces show no perceivable waning in invention nor any significant change of voice. Indeed, the two splendid and characteristic offerings on this excellent disc provide exemplary demonstrations of complementary but interrelated aspects of Holloway’s distinctive response to the thinking-composer’s dilemma: that of reconciling a compositional conscience which goads perpetual renewal and an omnipotent musical past that refuses to be silent or spurned.
In the case of the Fantasy-Pieces, the ghostly voice is Schumann’s. Literally so, in that the fount of the work’s compositional magma, Schumann’s Op. 24 Liederkreis, is performed as an integral part of Holloway’s reflections. It is an epicentre to which his own Ivesian collages, fantastic elaborations and Georgian sense of drama are fatefully attracted. Their inevitable progress is from furtive atonal fumblings to nirvanic A major, a land of lost content whose tinselly allure proves – despite protestations from Schoenberg, Boulez, et al – to be cast from pure gold.
So too is its relaxed Francophile counterweight, the frolicsome Serenade in C, a witty panorama of stylistic quotes and allusions telescoped into a tautly Classical five-movement divertimento, worthy of agents de plaisir such as Ibert, Poulenc and Françaix, whom Holloway so much admires. Antony Bye