HARRISON BIRTWISTLE (b.1934): Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum, Silbury Air, Secret Theatre.
Catalogue Number: 11K101
Description: These two works from the late '70s and one from the early '80s are quintessential Birtwistle of the era, and showcase two of his most individual preoccupations as composer; complex, intricate rhythmic 'mechanism' and the evocation of ancient, mysterious places. Carmen Arcadiae is a fine example of the former, a 'twittering machine', prefiguring similar mechanisms in the explicitly clock-referencing works of later years, and full of Birtwistle's incisive, spiky orchestral textures. The mechanism rotating beneath the surface of Silbury Air, the title referring to a mysterious prehistoric construction, Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, England, seems to be on a larger scale, encompassing planetary orbits, or the cycle of seasons, perhaps. One sense the mysterious ritual of Stravinsky's Le Sacre, transplanted to a different landscape, but with the same underlying sense of violence. Secret Theatre juxtaposes the mechanical and the lyrical from the outset, in a complex interplay of heterophonic dialogue that suggests an ancient love duet from myth or legend. London Sinfonietta; Elgar Howarth. Recorded Jan. 1987. Original 1988 Etcetera release.