Journeys – Orchestral Music from Five Continents
Works by Águila, Cekovská, Fokkens, Gendall, Mattar, Seilova, Stafylakis, Zamora and Zhangyi
Norwegian Radio Orchestra/Miguel Harth-Bedoya
Naxos 8.574265 60:48 mins
One of the most exciting elements of Miguel Harth-Bedoya’s recently concluded tenure at the Norwegian Radio Orchestra was his championship of new and/or rarely heard music. It’s delightful enough that the Peruvian conductor brought South American composers old and new to Scandinavia. But his enthusiasm was hardly limited by personal geography – or by style, as shown by this diverse, energetic and wholly rewarding survey of nine contemporary composers from across five continents.
The title Journeys – the English translation of the joyfully polyrhythmic Uhambo Olunintsi by South African Robert Fokkens – denotes not just different global locations but metaphorical journeys into different soundworlds. Only three of the pieces set out to reference ‘place’ per se: Carlos Zamora and Miguel del Águila offer colourful pictures of indigenous Chile and wider South America respectively in Sikuris and The Giant Guitar, while Nahla Farouk Mattar’s skittering, bell-like El-Áin (Evil Eye) alludes to Egyptian myth while taking inspiration from science.
Indeed matters of physics and musical structure inspire many of the works. Slovakian Ľubica Cekovská’s Shadow Scale and Kazakh Aigerim Seilova’s Pendulum. Evaporation explore expressive aspects of melody, harmony and time, with cellist Audun André Sandvik an impassioned soloist in the latter piece. Brittle Fracture and Gravitas (that is, scientific weight) prove apt titles for works by Canadian Harry Stafylakis and New Zealander Chris Gendall in describing tense and dramatic evocations of mechanical processes. Conversely, Singaporean Chen Zhangyi takes us effectively beyond the world entirely in his lush Of an Ethereal Symphony.