Weir, Beamish, C & D Matthews, Runswick, R Panufnik, Firsova, Skempton, Woolrich, etc

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Beamish,C & D Matthews,etc,Firsova,R Panufnik,Runswick,Skempton,Weir,Woolrich
LABELS: NMC
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: A White Room
WORKS: Works
PERFORMER: Schubert Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: D 075
The Schubert Ensemble’s millennium project, Chamber Music 2000, asked a raft of composers to write short pieces that would be within the capabilities of young and amateur performers, for the piano-and-strings line-up of the Trout Quintet. The results turn out to be intriguingly varied; by no means all the pieces are successful, and one or two sound as if they are asking too much of non-professional instrumentalists, but the best of them are nicely conceived miniatures.

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The right balance between musical content and technical difficulty is perfectly caught in the piece by Judith Weir that opens the disc – her Arise, arise! You slumbering sleepers, based on an Anglo-American folksong, is unmistakably Weir’s work, contains some beautifully conceived sonorities and makes its neat point all within a time-span of two-and-a-half minutes. There is another deft, though more conventional use of folksong in David Matthews’s Y Deryn Du; three compacted studies within four minutes of music in John Woolrich’s Toccata, Calmo and Nocturnal, and an effective piece of scene-painting in Sally Beamish’s piano trio HAUNTED HOUSE. If Elena Firsova’s Frozen Time is an example of exactly how not to do it – its six minutes seem to go on for ever – then Gerald Barry’s Snow is White provides two minutes of utter delight, along with the best programme note of all – ‘Francis Bacon died on the 9th of April 1626 in Highgate, after stuffing a chicken with snow’. Andrew Clements