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Monday, July 25, 2016

Harrison Birtwistle, Angel Fighter, In Broken Images, Virelai

I guess I have not heard enough of Harrison Birtwistle's music over the years to form a clean idea of what he is about. But that begins to change with the rather remarkable three-work release I've been listening to--Angel Fighter, In Broken Images, Virelai (Sus une fontayne) (NMC D211). On it David Atherton conducts the London Sinfonietta, with the addition of the BBC Singers, Andrew Watts, countertenor, and Jeffrey Lloyd Roberts, tenor for the initial work. The performances are excellent.

All three works appear to be of recent origin, and all show a very personal mastery of the modern chamber orchestra and choral group. The music is singular, dynamic, dramatic, and very full of tone color, especially "In Broken Images."

"Angel Fighter" re-enacts the biblical story of Jacob and his battle with an angel. It has a sort of "post-Wozzeck" expressionism that builds upon declamatory gestures and fully modern soloist, choral, orchestral interactions.

"Virelai" is equally worthwhile, short and neo-classically poignant.

I am mightily impressed with the music and performances. It shows us a Birtwistle in the full modernist vigor of creativity, a composer of great originality and inventive brilliance.

Very highly recommended.

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