Hopkins/Gilbert

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Hopkins/Gilbert
LABELS: NMC
WORKS: En Attendant; Two Pomes [sic]; Sensation; Nine or Ten Osannas
PERFORMER: Alison Wells (soprano), Alexander Balanescu (violin)Music Projects London/Richard Bernas
CATALOGUE NO: DO14 DDD (distr. Complete Record Co)
In his lifetime Bill Hopkins was better known as a writer than a composer, but since his sudden death in 1981 it has been his music that has focused attention. This immensely valuable recording now gives at least an inkling of the considerable composer that was lost to British music at the ridiculously early age of 37. Given Hopkins’s interests as a critic of the postwar avant-garde and his training (he was one of very few to study with the reclusive French serialist Jean Barraqué) the style of the pieces is not unexpected – an idiom that stems from the world of Boulez and Barraqué himself. But each piece has an intense charge, with tightly knotted instrumental lines and luxurious, soaring vocal writing. Despite the surface elegance it is music that is always hinting at larger, darker truths, as if its passion can only just be held in check.

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The Hopkins pieces are coupled on the disc with a substantial work by his friend and contemporary, Anthony Gilbert. Nine or Ten Osannas offers its performers (and CD listeners) a choice: create a permutation of any nine or ten pieces from a collection of 14. It may have been Gilbert’s response to the fashionable indeterminacy of the mid-Sixties, but the music itself is anything but indeterminate, full of terse, abrasive textures and violent contrasts, every so often alighting upon a kernel of sweet lyricism. Performances of both composers are forthright and attractively immediate. Andrew Clements