Sawer, Cutler, Phibbs

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Cutler,Phibbs,Sawer
LABELS: NMC
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Bright Future
WORKS: Works by Sawer, Cutler, Phibbs,
PERFORMER: Schubert Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: D 080
This is the second disc from NMC to present the fruits of the Schubert Ensemble’s commissioning initiative of short chamber works that could be tackled by young and amateur players (the first was reviewed in May 2001). Composers were asked to write at the easiest technical level with which they felt comfortable, and without compromising the essentials of their personal style. The commissions specified a line-up of piano and strings; the result here is a mixture of piano trios and piano quartets, though a couple of pieces reinforce the quartet line-up with a double bass, while Adam Gorb’s Bittersweet uses two violins and cello with the keyboard.

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Two of the trios are in fact the most impressive pieces on the disc. Joseph Phibbs’s Trio semplice packs three movements into its four-minute span, each of them sharply focused on a single, striking musical idea; David Sawer’s Riddle lasts barely a minute, yet nags away at a single rhythmic idea with quirky effectiveness. Neither work sounds remotely didactic, nor does Martin Butler’s Coplandesque Spring Rounds, nor Joe Cutler’s propulsive Jiggadybox (both quartets), but some of the composers represented here seem to be self-consciously ‘writing down’ to the performers, in idioms that range between faceless neo-classicism and rather woozy Romanticism. Andrew Clements