Woolrich: A Cabinet of Curiosities; A Book of Studies, Sets 1-3

COMPOSERS: Woolrich
LABELS: Meridian
ALBUM TITLE: Woolrich
WORKS: A Cabinet of Curiosities; A Book of Studies, Sets 1-3
PERFORMER: New London Chamber Ensemble
CATALOGUE NO: CDE 84535
The Books of Studies for wind quintet are, in Woolrich’s words, ‘chippings from the workshop: each tiny fragment is a seed for a future piece or an echo from a past one.’ Most clock in between 50 and 90 seconds, although the Lentissimo from the second set is a marathon 3:13. A Cabinet of Curiosities is, similarly, a set of miniatures, this time inspired by Rebus, a puzzle piece Schumann wrote for his daughter; yet there is nothing insubstantial, fragmentary or derivative about any of this music. Woolrich’s individual voice and the unerring craftsmanship with which he constructs and scores each item bind these epigrammatic movements into a cohesive whole. Even the briefest studies sound complete,

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with nothing essential left unsaid.

Darker Still explores the extremities of the flute’s range, whilst the Favola in Musica, in process of composition when Nono died in 1990, threads some of Nono’s music into a ‘re-telling’ of Monteverdi’s O Sia Tranquillo Il Mare.

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Though much of the music on this disc is spare and lean, Woolrich also knows how to pull out the stops. When he calls for something more raucous the NLCE responds with a power that belies its small forces. Barry Witherden