LABELS: Cala The Edge
WORKS: Elijah’s Violin; Birthday Piece for Richard Rodney Bennett; Six Bagatelles; O saisons, O châteaux; Red Leaves; Symphony No. 7
PERFORMER: Teresa Cahill (soprano); Brunel Ensemble/Christopher Austin
CATALOGUE NO: CACD 77005
The rise and rise of the Brunel Ensemble has been one of the most extraordinary, encouraging features of the recent UK contemporary music scene. Under its capable young conductor, Christopher Austin, the Bristol-based group has committed itself to commissioning new music and dusting off neglected works of the past decade. Few other labels (possibly NMC) would have the courage to programme Lutyens, McCabe, Williamson and Saxton on a ‘mixed’ single disc.
It deserves to sell well. The recordings are well-judged and balanced, the sound top-notch and the performances provide a display of virtuosic, youthful vitality and focused concentration. Saxton is well represented by Elijah’s Violin, a graphic tone poem full of rich, inventive sonorities. Malcolm Williamson’s latest symphony, the Seventh (for strings), is one of his most engaging works, the slow Ivesian andantes encompassing the opening movement and extended Andante are notably well carried off.
Lutyens’s Six Bagatelles are exquisitely textured, and with an aeratedness that just eludes her haunting, Webernian Rimbaud setting O saisons, O châteaux. Red Leaves by John McCabe (a composer still ludicrously under-represented on CD), reveals the creator of Notturni ed alba again weaving his magical, nocturnal spell. Well worth rushing out for, I’d say. Roderic Dunnett