WORKS: Your Rockaby; Night Dances; Dispelling the Fears
PERFORMER: Martin Robertson (saxophone), Gareth Hulse (oboe, cor anglais), Helen Tunstall (harp), John Constable (celesta, piano), Håkan Hardenberger, John Wallace (trumpet); BBC SO/Andrew Davis, London Sinfonietta/Oliver Knussen, Philharmonia Orchestra/Daniel Hardi
CATALOGUE NO: 452 598-2
Argo has made a long-term commitment to Mark-Anthony Turnage, and the first fruit of their collaboration combines two of his works from the last couple of years with the piece that first brought him to prominence 15 years ago.
Night Dances won the Guinness Prize for Composition when Turnage was only 21, yet the music is already identifiably his – a suite for four soloists and chamber orchestra coloured with the rhythmic and harmonic inflections of jazz and funk, which has the immediacy and pungency that have remained part of his music ever since.
Yet the world of Your Rockaby, a saxophone concerto in all but name from 1994, which takes its title from a Beckett monologue, is incomparably richer and more intense. Beckett’s text provides the source for the haunting song-without-words of the final section, and that catharsis is reached after a vertiginous journey through dark-hued textures, and a series of explosive climaxes in which the solo saxophone, often bereft and isolated, seems to be the only element of consolation.
Turnage is good at musical catharsis; the final section of Dispelling the Fears, first performed a year ago, is a wonderfully moving meditation for one of the work’s two solo trumpets, which seems to quieten all the fury and anxiety that has preceded it. This is as accomplished and moving an orchestral piece as anything written by a British composer this decade. Andrew Clements