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COMPOSERS: TurnageBenjaminRihm
LABELS: Warner
ALBUM TITLE: TurnageBenjaminRihm
WORKS: Etudes & Elegies; Olicantus; Canzonas
PERFORMER: Michael Svoboda
La Monnaire SO/ Kazushi Ono
CATALOGUE NO: 2564 60244-2
George Benjamin’s suave and tubby


Olicantus, a 50th birthday tribute

to Oliver Knussen, is here mere

icing on an already stimulating issue

that contrasts Rihm, the leading

German Romantic modernist, with

Mark-Anthony Turnage, who begins

to seem a kind of post-modern

Romantic. Certainly the three works

that make up Etudes and Elegies

establish fairly clear connections

to genres, and indeed sonorities,

cultivated by Michael Tippett. If

A Quick Blast for wind, brass and

percussion brings echoes of the

Praeludium for brass and bells, and the

calmly ecstatic A Quiet Life for strings

makes best sense in the light of, say,

the Corelli Fantasia, it is the central,

full-orchestral panel, Uninterrupted

Sorrow, that evokes a whole range

of Tippett-like gestures, like a slow,

desolate sequence of ritual dances,

while impressively staking its claims

to some stark, seldom-trod region of

British musical landscape.

Against Turnage, Rihm sounds

the very model of a continental

Expressionist in his early, almost

arrogantly assured ‘orchestral

sketches’, Cuts and Dissolves, while

the much more recent Canzona

per sonare for alto trombone (a

wonderfully persuasive Michael

Svoboda) and two orchestral groups is

much more inclusive in its harmonic

palette and evocations of 17th-century

Venetian antiphony. I was startled by

the sheer colouristic range and beauty

of sound that Kazushi Ono draws

from the Monnaie orchestra: these

are all excellent performances,

stunningly well recorded, a fine

addition to both composers’


discographies. Calum MacDonald