In Sunlight

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Elias,Macmillan,Montague,Nyman,Osborne,Powers & Jones,Woolrich
LABELS: NMC
WORKS: Works for violin and piano by Nyman, MacMillan, Elias, Osborne, Montague, Woolrich, Powers & Jones
PERFORMER: Madeleine Mitchell (violin), Andrew Ball (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: D 098

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It’s difficult to know what to admire more: the dedicated, penetrating musicianship of violinist Madeleine Mitchell, or the sheer range of the pieces she has inspired. Interestingly, though, there’s little here that reflects the old modernist ethos of writing ‘against’ the instrument. However difficult some of this music may be to play (Mitchell admits it took her ‘weeks’ to learn Nigel Osborne’s ferociously virtuosic Taw-Raw), almost all of it exudes respect for the violin, its traditional folk and classical characters as much as its wilder modern potential.

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From the familiar repetitive stomping and noodling of Michael Nyman’s On the Fiddle to the quirky experimental brilliance of Stephen Montague’s Folk Dances, one can still hear elements that wouldn’t have surprised Bartók, or perhaps even the Gypsy-inspired Brahms. It’s also surprising how lyrical a lot of this music is: whether in the long, soaring chant-inspired melodies of James MacMillan’s Kiss on Wood and A Different World or the more epigramatic mini-suite …that is Night by John Woolrich. There are even things that sound as though they might be fun to play, like Stuart Jones’s strongly flavoured folk-inspired Kothektche – or at least that’s the impression the magnificent Mitchell manages to convey. Good recordings, bright-toned, but with generous background atmosphere. Stephen Johnson