COMPOSERS: Beamish,C & D Matthews,etc,Firsova,R Panufnik,Runswick,Skempton,Weir,Woolrich
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: A White Room
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.
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