Turnage: On All Fours; Lament for a Hanging Man; Sarabande; Release

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: On All Fours; Lament for a Hanging Man; Sarabande; Release
PERFORMER: Fiona Kimm (mezzo-soprano)Ian Brown (piano)Christopher van Kampen (cello)Martin Robertson (saxophones)Nash Ensemble/Oliver Knussen
NMC’s new disc of chamber music by Mark Anthony Turnage is not ‘easy listening’. But Turnage has never written to please. His music is powerful, expressive, raw, uncomfortable, always with a hint of underlying violence and rebellion. The four works on the disc all date from the Eighties and to an extent show their age – hard-edged, complex and dissonant. Turnage’s music is strongly coloured, particularly favouring vast arrays of percussion and the ‘vulgar’ sound of the saxophone – a gatecrasher in ‘normal’ classical surroundings. All four works principally focus on it with Martin Robertson an impressive soloist. On All Fours, the main work on the disc – for 14 players, solo saxophone and cello – is a complex, almost didactic working through of ten ‘dances’. If Christopher van Kampen’s cello playing sounds at times strained, Turnage’s writing is extremely demanding, with the instrument frequently drawn to the very top of its range. Fiona Kimm is the full-throated mezzo in Lament for a Hanging Man with rather too heavy a vibrato for my liking. Release, written for a TV film, is by far the most approachable piece. Its demonic brilliance is relished by the Nash Ensemble. Oliver Knussen conducts as convincingly as ever. Annette Morreau