TANSY DAVIES (b.1973): Dune of Footprints, What Did We See? (Suite from Between Two Worlds) (Norwegian Radio Orchestra; Karen Kamensek), Nature (Huw Watkins [piano], Birmingham Contemporary Music Group; Oliver Knussen), Re-greening (National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain).
Catalogue Number: 05W068
Description: Davies' early works had a gritty, propulsive, urban quality, born of her fusion of a rock-infused youth and studies with several leading British composers noted for their embrace of tonal accessibility, which lends her tonally accessible music a hard-hitting, confrontational quality. This churning musical engineering persisted, even as she became increasingly fascinated by what she has described as the ‘thrilling mechanisms of nature’, only now the patterns are more likely to be dendritic, tidal, astrological or organic in nature. Or inorganic; Dune of Footprints is an imaginary journey through a cave in France, where the rippling patterns underfoot are those of ancient, fossilised dunes, and uneven progress through the tunnels suddenly reveal towering cavern walls, rising out of the gloom. The piano concerto Nature brims with energy and irrepressible vitality from the outset, the orchestra painting a living landscape, within which the soloist's exuberant, forceful arabesques leap tirelessly. The visceral physicality of the music is compelling, especially that of the piano part, rushing as though airborne through darkling forests. This is not nature reduced to gentle, pastoral scenes, but nature wild, untamed, and primitive. If the burgeoning, bursting energies of nature inform the textures and mechanisms that drive Dune of Footprints and the piano concerto, it is the urban Tansy Davies who comes to the fore in the suite derived from her opera Between Worlds, about the emotional fallout from 9/11. Rough-textured rhythmic obsessions suggest the turbulent fluidity imposed, unasked, on the bustling, ordered city; tense, strained slow planes of sound are like emotions rubbed raw, stretched almost to breaking point. Two short middle movements - explosively percussive and frozen, falling - conjure inescapable images from that dark day. Finally, a kind of surging, urgent realisation of the essential nature of love in the face of tragedy and loss provides a kind of solemn resolution. The riotously exuberant Re-Greening, for large youth orchestra (who also sing snatches of old English melodies) celebrates the shamanic cycle of the year, its pealing, thrusting spasms of life described by the composer as "Like time-lapse photography in a burgeoning forest, tendril-like textures grow quickly into towers or choruses of colour."