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Julian Anderson: Poetry Nearing Silence

Nash Ensemble/Martyn Brabbins (NMC)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
NMC Poetry

Julian Anderson
Poetry Nearing Silence; Van Gogh Blue; Ring Dance; Bearded Lady; Prayer; Another Prayer; The Colour of Pomegranates
Nash Ensemble/Martyn Brabbins
NMC NMCD256   78:06 mins

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This scintillating collection of chamber works is aptly titled after Julian Anderson’s eight-movement suite, Poetry Nearing Silence – while its cover depicts a telling art-cum-poetry fragment from the Tom Phillips book that inspired it. ‘Unpack/ delight/ savour/ the old/ adventure’: in effect, these words – and the erased words or ‘silence’ part-visible around them – embody what Anderson does in music through seven, strikingly cogent pieces dating from 1987 to 2015.

Stylistically impossible to pigeonhole, each vividly evokes its extra-musical foundations while springing from Anderson’s urge to explore the stuff of music. Form and expression, colour and character become adventures in sound and association while at the same time reflecting on what that might mean.

The Nash Ensemble prove exceptional collaborators, variously joined by conductor Martyn Brabbins. Ring Dance is immediately arresting, its violin duo an erotically-charged rumination on dance and resonance, while the ensuing The Bearded Lady (clarinet, piano) morphs from knockabout to a lament for mistreated perceived ‘others’.

Throughout, psychological and musical nuance go hand-in-hand; the parsing of Prayer (viola) being to the point in both quiet homage and urgent struggle, thoughtfully re-visited in Another Prayer (violin). The Colour of Pomegranates (alto flute, piano) offers a sensuality extended and quixotically critiqued in Poetry Nearing Silence (septet) where, as in Philips’s work, what is unsaid serves to underscore the whole. Most beguiling of all, Van Gogh Blue (octet) explores the colour that encapsulates like no other that intensely public-private artist.

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Steph Power