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Psappha Commissions

Psappha Ensemble (Psappha)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Psappha Commissions
Works by John Casken, Tom Coult, Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Alissa Firsova, Tom Harrold, George Stevenson and Mark-Anthony Turnage
Psappha Ensemble
Psappha PSA1008   73:09 mins


Psappha’s 30th birthday present to itself (see feature, p52) does exactly what it says on the tin. Commissions revisits half-a-dozen works written specially for the ensemble over the past 12 years, and in a multiplicity of styles, speaking to Psappha’s versatility and to the broad church that is contemporary classical music. The oldest piece (2010) is John Casken’s Winter Reels, an evocation of Northern landscapes underpinned by Casken’s characteristic glitteringly incised translucence and gestural sure-footedness. Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Holocaust-remembering Black Milk on the other hand at times seems to summon up the refracted spirit of Kurt Weill and was written with the distinctive timbres of jazz vocalist Ian Shaw in mind.

The rest of the programme falls to a younger generation. Dark Dance, Tom Harrold’s ‘perverse viola concertino’ (his words), pits a feisty solo viola against an irrepressibly oxygenating, fidgety accompaniment, while Tom Coult’s Two Games and a Nocturne has the exuberant playfulness of two ‘games’ counterbalanced by the redefined impressionism of the ‘Nocturne’. Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade’s Patdeep Studies drill down into Hindustani rāg in a carefully curated confluence of East-meets-West that embraces delicacy, determination and even a little humour. George Stevenson, meanwhile, inspired by the physicist Richard Feynman, interrogates notions of the familiar.

The performances – captured during concerts across 2021 – are top notch, the music inhabited and communicated with compelling understanding and captivating aplomb. A free bonus download seals a scintillating anniversary pat on the back.


Paul Riley