Gerard Schurmann

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Gerard Schurmann
LABELS: Chandos
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.

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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.

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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