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Max Richter: Exiles

Baltic Sea Philharmonic/Kristjan Järvi (DG)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Max Richter
Exiles; Flowers of Herself; On The Nature of Daylight; Infra 5; Sunlight
Baltic Sea Philharmonic/Kristjan Järvi
DG 486 0445   67:20 mins

Max Richter’s Exiles has been called post-Glassian, but the half-hour work has plenty in common with the early minimalism advocated by Cage and Feldman. The piece features a simple two-note melody that is repeated – with subtle motivic development – over gently shifting strings. We are over 20 minutes in before there is any real thematic or textural variation; then, the final section sees an explosion of timbral colour, amplified by menacing percussion. After striding around the orchestra, the sparse theme returns to its original iteration. Exiles is Richter’s response to the migrant crisis of 2015 and the cultural impact it had on the composer’s then-home city Berlin (that year, 158,657 Syrians applied for asylum in Germany; the majority of them were approved). The music’s constant pacing is a powerful representation of the plight of refugees. That it is here performed by the excellent Baltic Sea Philharmonic – an ensemble of no-fixed abode that connects multiple countries around Scandinavia and mainland Europe – is apt.

Movement is also central to Flowers of Herself, which depicts the hustle and bustle described in the opening to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway. The eponymous protagonist revels in every ‘swing, tramp and trudge’ in a waking Westminster; Richter evokes this activity through an ever-changing pulse – every bar has a different time signature. The piece is a quasi-overture to Woolf Works, the ballet composed for the Royal Ballet’s resident choreographer Wayne McGregor and is one of five newly orchestrated short works that comprise the rest of the recording.

Claire Jackson