Weir: The Welcome Arrival of Rain; Natural History; Moon and Star; Forest; Heroic Strokes of the Bow

COMPOSERS: Weir
LABELS: NMC D
ALBUM TITLE: Weir
WORKS: The Welcome Arrival of Rain; Natural History; Moon and Star; Forest; Heroic Strokes of the Bow
PERFORMER: Ailish Tynan (soprano); BBC Singers; BBC SO/Martyn Brabbins
CATALOGUE NO: NMC D137
NMC, previously champions of Judith Weir’s chamber music, have now brought out this well-filled first disc of her orchestral works – issued to coincide with (regrettably) the last of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s single-composer weekends at the Barbican. The disc shows that Weir’s characteristic voice is just as recognisable on the larger scale of the orchestra. There’s the same feeling for strong, un-muddy colours and unobtrusive organic growth, the same use of familiar materials in unfamiliar ways to make serious points lightly. What’s also evident is the wide range of cultural influences and subject-matter Weir can absorb into her individual sound-world. Of the two vocal pieces here, the song-cycle Natural History returns to her long-standing interest in ancient Chinese wisdom, while the choral Moon and Star encompasses Emily Dickinson’s eccentrically visionary cosmology. As for the purely orchestral works, The Welcome Arrival of Rain portrays the coming of the Indian monsoon, Forest evokes German Romanticism (with a touch of Tippett’s magic wood?), and Heroic Strokes of the Bow runs Beethovenian energy almost into the ground. The performances, under the ever-reliable Martyn Brabbins, are excellent, with Ailish Tynan a personable soloist in Natural History. The recordings are clear and bright, like the music itself.

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