Sawhney • Pärt • Schnittke • Messiaen

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COMPOSERS: Part,Sawhney,Schnittke & Messiaen
LABELS: SoundCircus
ALBUM TITLE: Collection: Neural Circuits
WORKS: Music
PERFORMER: Joanna MacGregor (piano), Aref Durvesh (tabla), Christopher van Kampen (cello); Britten Sinfonia, Ensemble Bash, Play Ensemble/Cameron Sinclair


The name of pianist Joanna MacGregor’s record label, SoundCircus, goes some way to describe her unique brand of crossover. For example, a pleasing aspect of Neural Circuits, the latest addition to her catalogue, is the sense of a show arising out of diverse acts. These range from traditional Ghanaian bell music and dances to the Piano Concerto of Alfred Schnittke, Arvo Pärt’s Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten, Messiaen’s ‘Louange à l’éternité de Jésus’ (in a 1993 recording that features the much-missed cellist Christopher van Kampen), and two recent works by Nitin Sawhney, born 1964. MacGregor’s sense of the arresting scene, and how to place it within the carnival canvas, is hard to define, yet it nonetheless shows true taste. It doubtless explains her recent appointment as associate artistic director of the Britten Sinfonia, whose thorough, observant playing graces this disc along with that of percussion Ensemble Bash. It also suggests, perhaps, why the overall collection itself sounds like some idealised post-modern symphony. Thus the high-art drama of Schnittke’s polystylistic clashes is extended, if diffused, into cultural frissons between the seven ‘movements’, and in the case of Sawhney’s Urban Prophecies, the individual score is infused with the cool wit of a notional North-Indian flamenco.


Nicholas Williams