Pickard: Gaia Symphony & Eden

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Pickard
LABELS: BIS
ALBUM TITLE: Pickard: Gaia Symphony & Eden
WORKS: Gaia Symphony & Eden
PERFORMER: Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag/ Andreas Hanson

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The front of the booklet depicts the sun stunningly setting over the Pacific. The back shows a Norwegian brass band. The CD itself spans the same extremes, the visionary and the homely, in eloquent music crafted by the British composer John Pickard with the same aplomb and extended tonal language familiar from his orchestral piece The Flight of Icarus.

His architectural skills are tested in the lengthy Gaia Symphony, named after the Greek goddess of the earth, written in chunks over 12 years. Striking percussion interludes give the brass respite, and enlarge a colour tapestry taking us from the full ensemble blast, through the cuddly euphonium, to what sounds like the ticking of deathwatch beetles. Momentum falters in the final section, ‘Men of Stone’, originally a separate suite; but this is still a strong, brilliant work, given a dazzling performance by the wizards (mostly amateur) of the Eikanger-Bjørsvik Musikklag.

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Though placed at the disc’s start, Eden, a shorter reflection on man and nature, could also serve as an alternative finale as it whisks us from paradise and its destruction toward a hopeful conclusion. And everything comes gorgeously captured in BIS’s vivid, wide-ranging recording. Warn the neighbours before you play it; even better, invite them in. Geoff Brown