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Orchestra of the Swan, et al (Signum Classics)

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

Works by Adès, Bowie/Eno, Couperin, Górecki, Grieg, Marr, Radiohead, Rameau, Reich, Satie, Schubert and Wallen
Victoria Brawn (oboe), Trish Clowes (saxophone), Graham Instrall (drums), Catherine Leech (violin), David Le Page (violin, viola), Bruce O’Neill, David Gordon (piano); Orchestra of the Swan
Signum Classics SIGCD 662   63:42 mins

Orchestra of the Swan has built up an impressive reputation for its imaginative programming and roster of new commissions across its 25-year history. This well-executed concept album is something of a history-bending mixtape that hops between the present day and the 17th century (with plenty of stops along the way). Works by Rameau, Grieg, Satie and Errollyn Wallen sit alongside creative new arrangements of everything from Couperin to Radiohead. The disc’s overarching theme is one of mood: the album is pervaded throughout by a searching melancholy and a dream-like quality. Divided into 14 short tracks, the disc’s contents might on first glance suggest something of a hotchpotch, yet as the tracks flow on, Timelapse comes to work a certain magic on the spirit and conjures a real sense of mystery and beauty.

Highlights include questing improvisations from Trish Clowes (saxophone) and David Gordon (piano) which unspool across two slow movements from Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, while the ensemble delivers particularly affecting performances of Thomas Adès’s O Albion and Wallen’s Chorale. The disc also features several arrangements by artistic director/leader David Le Page, including a beautifully contemplative reworking of Bowie and Eno’s ‘We Could be Heroes’, and a version of ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ by Johnny Marr of The Smiths which proves less successful due to its overt sentimentality, despite beautiful playing from oboist Victoria Brawn. All the same, this is a commendable disc performed with flair which offers a fitting soundtrack to these disorienting times.

Kate Wakeling