WORKS: Chamber Symphony; Songs of New Beginnings!; Cello Cantata
PERFORMER: Linda Ormiston (mezzo-soprano)Paragon Ensemble/David Davies
CATALOGUE NO: CCD 1032 DDD
Two new chamber ensembles have appeared in Scotland since 1991: the Hebrides Ensemble and the Chamber Group of Scotland, both of them committed to the performance of new Scottish music. But during the Eighties Glasgow’s Paragon Ensemble held the stage alone. This is the second in a series of recordings that should help the Paragon maintain its status as elder statesman now it is suddenly chic to commission new music.
Two of the works on this disc date from 1990, Glasgow’s year as European City of Culture. Edward McGuire’s Songs of New Beginnings are six years older, and develop in the course of the cycle from near-microtonality to a lilting melodic accompaniment with neoclassical fussiness. Linda Ormiston sings powerfully, but her voice has a brittle edge which works against the sorter tone of the later songs.
Norris’s uncertain Cello Cantata, although distinguished by his fine playing, makes it only too plain that the cello represents reason in an impatient and unreasoning world. Thomas Wilson’s Chamber Symphony is magnificent even after repeated listening, whether in the pontificated humour of the bass clarinet or the interwoven thematic material in the tremulously slow central section. It speaks of the tenderness and eloquence of a bygone age, but without cloying nostalgia. The composer is well
served by performers and recording engineers alike. Christopher Lambton