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Raymond Yiu: The World Was Once All Miracle, etc

Andrew Watts (countertenor), Roderick Williams (baritone); BBC Symphony Orchestra/David Robertson, et al (Delphian)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Raymond Yiu
The London Citizen Exceedingly Injured*; The World Was Once All Miracle**; Symphony†
†Andrew Watts (countertenor), **Roderick Williams (baritone); BBC Symphony Orchestra/*David Robertson, **Andrew Davis, †Edward Gardner
Delphian DCD 34225   67:44 mins


This terrifically engaging disc of music by Raymond Yiu opens with a bang. Subtitled ‘symphonic game for orchestra’, The London Citizen Exceedingly Injured (2012) nigh-on shimmers with invention. The piece was sparked by an unlikely array of stimuli including 18th-century bookseller Alexander Cruden, the ‘silenced church bells’ of George Orwell’s 1984, London’s Chinatown and Elgar’s Cockaigne Overture which Yiu magics into a concerto for orchestra that by turns flutters, pulses and stabs with a vivid sense of wit and colour.

Drawing on another master of dystopian fiction, The World Was Once All Miracle (2017) sets six poems by Anthony Burgess. Conceived as a portrait of the writer, Yiu’s score references various episodes from Burgess’s life including his time in Malaysia (conveyed by striking use of bamboo resonators known as bungkakas) and a delightful homage to Cole Porter, whose music Burgess delighted in. While the work lacks some of the imaginative zing of the disc’s opening track, this is nonetheless a fascinating piece and Roderick Williams’s dextrous and intelligent performance meets every challenge of the score with aplomb.

Yiu’s First Symphony is as much a song cycle as a symphony, with a glorious performance here from countertenor Andrew Watts. Setting texts by Whitman, Cavafy, Gunn and Donne, the work references everything from ’70s disco to Domenico Scarlatti and is at once subversive, playful, emotive and radiant. With its every track captured live in concert, the recording finds the BBCSO on brilliantly agile form and in every way a match for Yiu’s electric musical imagination.


Kate Wakeling