OLIVER KNUSSEN (b.1952): Choral for Orchestra, Violin Concerto (Leila Josefowicz [violin]), Requiem - Songs for Sue (Claire Booth [soprano], Birmingham Contemporary Music Group), Autumnal for Violin and Piano (Alexandra Wood [violin]), Secret Psalm for Solo Violin, Prayer Bell Sketch (Ryan Wigglesworth [piano]), Ophelia's Last Dance for Piano.

Catalogue Number: 12O084

Label: NMC

Reference: D178

Format: CD

Price: $18.98

Description: An unusually satisfying 'composer portrait', this disc presents a cross-section of Knussen's output from 1970 to 2010. A remarkable consistency of style is apparent, and an exacting self-discipline; one reason that Knussen's output is still rather small is that he takes a great deal of time and trouble to make sure that his intricate and elegant constructions work exactly as intended. There is something of a preponderance of memorial and funerary preoccupations here, an implicit melancholy that has imbued the composer's works with a mature, solemn gravity, even from his earliest years and even underlying his sometimes dazzlingly glittering surface textures. The early Choral is an impressive cort├Ęge, giving the impression of several slow processions converging; the death of Roberto Gerhard provided impetus for its composition. Prayer Bell Sketch memorializes Takemitsu in imaginatively sonorous bell effects on the piano, as though peals, carillons and calls to prayer were being heard at different distances simultaneously. Bells also begin and end the terse, economical violin concerto of 2001-02, its central somber, elegiac Aria a response to 9/11, the outer movements a searching recitative and a frantically virtuosic, hard-driven finale - lively and energetic, but with something of the totentanz about it. The Requiem, setting Auden, Machado, Dickinson and Rilke, was written in memory of the composer's wife. Autumnal in tone and timbre, with dark-toned instrumentation, this intensely moving work excels in the clear, eloquent presentation of the texts within a framework of exquisitely judged orchestral texture. Texts and translations included. Huw Watkins (piano), BBC Symphony Orchestra; Oliver Knussen.

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