Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Harrison Birtwistle, Elgar Howarth, London Sinfonietta|
Birtwistle: Secret Theatre / Silbury Air / Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum
Bruce Hodges | New York, NY | 12/10/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based on the frequency that this disc appears in my CD player, it's one of my favorites. I first heard "Secret Theatre" years ago and was totally intrigued by its strange, sinister mood. It might be the highlight of this recording, but all three pieces will compel you to hear them again and again. "Silbury Air" has an innocuous title, but the music is stark, menacing, and tense. The subject is Silbury Hill, a prehistoric mound in England with a purpose that has not been determined to this day. Birtwistle's music has a similar inscrutable quality, and it's beautifully performed here. "Carmen arcadie..." also has a slightly mad, haunting quality, like a huge machine gone out of control. Once it begins, it seems like it may never stop. (And with the excellent London Sinfonietta musicians giving it their all, you probably won't want it to.)This is a marvelous program of some of this composer's best work, all performed with great energy, not to mention a bit of wit, elegantly conducted by Elgar Howarth. It doesn't hurt, also, that the sound is gorgeous -- the clarity allows you to hear all members of the ensemble. An exciting recording that might tempt some who would not otherwise explore contemporary scores."
Birtwistle's Secret Theatre of Music
Discophage | France | 09/04/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The music of Birtwistle often makes me think of a cross-breed between Varèse and Boulez. With Varèse Birtwistle shares a taste for the most piercing sonorities of woodwinds and brass, and some exotic-sounding melodic turns. With Boulez he has in common a dramaturgy of stop and go, with sudden flurries of instrumental activity with a strong rhythmic contour followed by moments of stasis - sometimes both threads are simultaneous. There is less a sense of a steady, forward-moving pulse than in Varèse (although it appears more in these pieces than in others from Birtwistle - just try the begin Carmen Arcadiae for instance), and the music sounds more complex and intricate than Varèse's.
The three compositions on this disc were all written for the London Sinfonietta, in 1976 (Silbury Air), 1977 (Carmen Arcadiae...) and 1984 (Secret Theatre) - Birtwistle had also written Verses for the same ensemble, a piece requiring only winds and percussion, in 1969. This is not easy listening contemporary music, there are no searingly lyrical melodies (although there are melodies, especially in Secret Theatre, as I said with a Varesian flavor to them), it is rugged, imposing, mysteriously ritualistic, sometimes very atmospheric (the beginning of Silbury Air for instance), highly elaborate but also quite dramatic. Not for everyone - even not for every amateur of contemporary music, but for those with a taste for Varèse, Boulez, Carter and Xenakis.
TT 57:47 (Secret Theatre isn't 25:44 as indicated on the back cover but 31:59). Excellent notes. The disc is about to be reissued by NMC, this wonderful british equivalent to New World Records devoted to contemporary British music. It is not yet listed here, but you'll find it on this website's uk sister company under ASIN B001DLUC2Q.