Errollyn Wallen: Concerto Grosso**; James Wilson: The Green Fuse; Daniel Kidane: Dream Song*
Roderick Williams* (baritone); Tai Murray** (violin); Chi-Chi Nwanoku** (double bass); Isata Kanneh-Mason** (piano); Chineke! Orchestra & Chorus/Anthony Parnther, Kevin John Edusei^ and Wayne Marshall^^
NMC NMC D250 62.46 mins
When double bassist Chi-chi Nwanoku founded the Chineke! Orchestra in 2015 – Europe’s first majority Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) ensemble – she also spearheaded a much-needed conversation about championing music by BME composers. This disc is an extension of that work.
Titular track The Spark Catchers was recorded at the BBC Proms in 2017. Hannah Kendall’s sound whirlpool takes its inspiration from Lemn Sissay’s poem of the same name. There is an itchy brooding to the piece; flashes of percussion and fragmented melodies add a sense of propulsion. Chineke! – led here by German conductor Kevin John Edusei – exudes energetic expertise. Daniel Kidane’s Dream Song is also a live recording, taken from Chineke!’s premiere performance at the reopening of the Queen Elizabeth Hall in 2018. Roderick Williams’s rich baritone ideally suits the setting of Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech; colourful orchestral and chorus interludes add further interest.
Philip Herbert’s Elegy brings a change of pace. Like the remaining works, this is a studio recording. Elegy is a remembrance piece dedicated to Stephen Lawrence, packed with lush melodies and scored for 18 string players, one for each year of Lawrence’s short life. Chineke! draws out the pastoral elements reminiscent of Vaughan Williams and Delius. Further contrast can be found in Errollyn Wallen’s glorious Concerto Grosso, with soloists Isata Kanneh-Mason (piano), Tai Murray (violin) and Nwanoku herself. Part patische, part reinvention, the four movements feature snippets of jazz, Baroque and pop, brilliantly understood and presented by the orchestra. Julian Joseph’s Carry That Sound continues in a similar vein, while James Wilson’s The Green Fuse explores the philosophical side of creativity. Claire Jackson