Photography: Works by Errollyn Wallen

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COMPOSERS: Errollyn Wallen
LABELS: NMC
ALBUM TITLE: Wallen
WORKS: Photography; Cello Concerto; Hunger; In Earth
PERFORMER: Matthew Sharp (cello), Tim Harries (bass guitar); Quartet X; Ensemble X/ Nicholas Kok, Philip Headlam
CATALOGUE NO: NMC NMC D 221

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In the notes to her first orchestral-only album, Belize-born British composer Errollyn Wallen writes that intuition, along with perception and craft, is ‘one of the essential ingredients of inspiration and spontaneity’. Another would seem to be eclecticism, as this disc offers snapshots of a wide range of styles – from Bach to Britten to Stravinsky to blues to the minimalist chugs of John Adams.

The English pastoral tradition also appears, the extended opening soliloquy of her 2007 Cello Concerto rising and hovering like a lark ascending. Snippets of Bachian figuration, Britten-ish pizzicato, Tippett-like blueseyness, all come together in the richly expressive playing of Matthew Sharp, for whom this virtuosic single-movement piece was written. Less successful is the Stravinsky pastiche at the heart of her brooding Hunger (1996) – an odd moment of Rite-lite from Ensemble X under Philip Headlam – while the Orchestra X are fully at home with the dance-like rhythms of Wallen’s title track, Photography (2006). In Earth, a tribute to Purcell’s lament from Dido and Aeneas, features amplified echoes of electric bassist Tim Harries and Wallen’s closely miked vocals – a bold celebration of Purcell’s melancholy.

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Nick Shave