HARRISON BIRTWISTLE (b.1934): Fantasy, Op. 77, Variations from The Golden Mountain, Gigue Machine, Dance of the Metro-Gnome, LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN (1770-1827): 6 Bagatelles, Op. 126, Allegretto in B Minor, WoO 61.
Catalogue Number: 01W048
Reference: WER 68140 2
Description: This "concept album" was put together by the enterprising pianist to highlight parallels between the always unpredictable and uncompromising Birtwistle and the utterly shocking (in his own time) Beethoven. Birtwistle sums up this affinity thus: "I’ve got a good answer. It’s nothing to do with quality. It’s that Beethoven never does what you think he’s going to. That’s the brilliant thing. It’s always a surprise. You might know the piece well, but the surprise is always there. To me he’s always a surprise, this Beethoven. And I like the idea of writing things where you don’t quite know what the direction is”. The Beethoven pieces are relatively rarely performed, and the first, the relentlessly inventive and wayward Op.72 Fantasia, goes a long way toward demonstrating the pianist's and the composer’s point. Birtwistle‘s Variations are not variations in the standard sense, but rather a series of episodes that unpredictably juxtapose gnomic pointillism and hectic mechanical spasms, ending with a thunderous troll-dance and a series of shrieking clusters. Gigue Machine highlights Birtwistle's fondness for musical perpetual motion mechanisms, sometimes moving on a vast, mysterious geological timescale, and sometimes, as here and in Harrison's Clocks, in frantic, irrational but microscopically precise motion, or in the stately but unstable slow steps of clocks and dancers in the suspended animation of dreams. Nicolas Hodges (piano).