COMPOSERS: Gerard Schurmann
WORKS: Six Studies of Francis Bacon; Variants for Small Orchestra
PERFORMER: BBC SO/Gerard Schurmann
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 9167 ADD
This is, in part at least, one of the clearest-voiced Chandos recordings I’ve heard. Gerard Schurmann’s studio broadcast last year, conducting three of his works with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, was a revelation. What impressed then comes across strongly here: the amazing virtuosity, thrust and commitment of this discerning orchestra, evidenced in crystal-clear woodwind and brass, an exciting, sheeny string sound, and thorough preparation.
These two orchestral works are amongst Schurmann’s best. Six Studies of Francis Bacon is as expressionistic as its title suggests – redolent of the late Sixties, but with beautifully transparent quieter sections (No. 3 in particular) and an arch wit, interspersed with glimpses of distortion and madness. This is hard-hitting but highly accessible music, its Lisztian transformations well-crafted.
Variants, a compact set of variations for Schubert-sized chamber orchestra, is in some ways more striking, though the transfer (despite some dazzling wind roulades and searing Bartókian strings) seems a bit more raspy. It’s a pity another work, like the admirable Cello Concerto or Slovak Folksongs, couldn’t be included in this 50-minute disc. But Schurmann’s deft, brilliant orchestration suits these performers well. The disc offers a useful foretaste of his Concerto for Orchestra, to be premiered at Pittsburgh by Maazel next season. For the adventurous, easily commended. Roderic Dunnett