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Hesketh: In Ictu Oculi – Orchestral Works

BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Christoph-Mathias Mueller (Paladino Music)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
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Knotted Tongues; Of Time and Disillusionment; In Ictu Oculi
BBC National Orchestra of Wales/Christoph-Mathias Mueller
Paladino Music PMR 0092   54:42 mins


Kenneth Hesketh is a composer at the height of his considerable powers. Born in Liverpool in 1968, his music is saturated with an Anglo-French modernism informed by figures from Dutilleux to Knussen, and interests from classical architecture to medieval iconography. These three recent orchestral works showcase to brilliant effect his deepening fascination with scientific and other philosophies of existence. Entropy and mutation, Memento Mori, and Cartesian theories of humans as unreliable machines – such humanist preoccupations give rise to a purely musical, abstract approach to sound and structure. The result is an exhilarating and beautiful, sometimes disturbing, synergy of form and expression, couched in music that’s as richly detailed as it is macroscopic.

Key to Knotted Tongues (2012-14) and In Ictu Oculi (2017) is the propulsive rupture and rebuilding of musical blocks. Part of a latent cycle of works, the former explores how new states arise from decay, here pitching foreground material against enveloping, billowing clouds of notes. The latter explores labyrinths and mazes in three compelling meditations upon time and transience. Radiant with colour yet darkly tense, the certainty of death is accepted rather than mourned as part of a greater process. Of Time and Disillusionment (2016) is scored for a smaller orchestra than is typical for Hesketh. Within its five-section symmetry, a leanness and clarity of line allows the magnificent BBC National Orchestra of Wales to enjoy individual as well as collective virtuosity under expert conductor Christoph-Mathias Mueller.


Steph Power