Spring Music; Voices of Memory; Sonata for Solo Violin
Harriet Mackenzie (violin); BBC National Orchestra of Wales/William Boughton
Lyrita SRCD.385 72:45 mins
Nicholas Maw always stood slightly aside from Birtwistle, Maxwell Davies and others from the remarkable cluster of British composers born in the mid 1930s. Essentially a post-Romantic, he developed a musical language mindful of contemporary developments, but still in touch with the harmonic world associated with the beginning of the 20th century. Nothing on this welcome album can top his breakthrough piece of 1962, Scenes and Arias, still a knockout today; even so, if you aren’t stirred by the panache of his half-hour Sonata for Solo Violin (1997) I’d suggest a visit to the doctor. Harriet Mackenzie is a most fearless and eloquent executant of this wonderfully expressive array of contrasting textures, colours and violin techniques, fully worth placing alongside the 20th century masterworks of Ysaÿe and Bartók.
On the orchestral front, the variation set Voices of Memory (1995) offers another of Maw’s impressively deft juggling displays within a large-span structure, well serviced by William Boughton and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. The one disappointment is Spring Music (1982), music consciously designed for easy access by listeners and performers and a creation that Maw himself looked upon kindly. But it seems a tame, loose-jointed piece beside its fellows here.