Talbot: Utopia

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Metcalfe,Talbot
LABELS: Real World
WORKS: Talbot: Utopia; The Croydon Grand Prix; Cyanide; Dead Space; First Day of Summer; Iliac Crest etc; Metcalfe: The Third Fire; Silent Westway; Ochre Orange Freeway etc
PERFORMER: Tom Kerstens’s G Plus Ensemble; Tippett Quartet; Amanda Cook (guitar), Dan Gresson (percussion)


Kerstens likes to commission composers whose experience derives from beyond the boundaries of classical music. Joby Talbot was a member of the wryly-humorous Divine Comedy, whilst John Metcalfe, now with the Duke Quartet, played viola for the eclectically-influenced Durutti Column.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the range of their inspiration is wide, embracing echoes of rock, Minimalism and ‘world music’ as well as the conservatoire.

Curiously, Metcalfe uses modern technology (a digital delay, applied sparingly) for his most traditional-sounding piece, The Third Fire, where he draws on the gestures and emotional milieu of Spanish/classical guitar. Both composers contribute music that is atmospheric, accessible, and very pleasant to listen to.


Nonetheless, perhaps unreasonably, I felt these pieces were a little disappointing compared to several of Talbot’s earlier works, such as Path of Miracles, with their greater emotional clout and inventive development of material. Barry Witherden