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Bracing Change

Bracing Change


Dennehy:

The weather of it

Doric String Quartet

Gilbert, A:

Haven of Mysteries

Guy Johnston (cello)

Carducci String Quartet

Holt, Simon:

String Quartet No. 3

JACK Quartet


John Gilhooly OBE - Wigmore Hall Director writes .. 'Renewing the chamber music repertoire is central to the co-commissioning partnership between Wigmore Hall, The Radcliffe Trust and NMC Recordings. We are delighted to support Simon Holt’s 3rd Quartet with the JACK Quartet, Donnacha Dennehy’s The weather of it with the Doric String Quartet and Anthony Gilbert’s Haven of Mysteries with the Carducci String Quartet and Guy Johnston. We are very pleased to support some of the finest musicians of their generation, achieving the highest standards of their interpretations in modern compositions. I have no doubt that this recording will be praised for its vitality, freshness and the expressive power of new music. Wigmore Hall’s wholehearted commitment to continue building the chamber music repertoire is central to this project, and we look forward to further recordings yet to be released in this series.' Simon Holt, Donnacha Dennehy and Anthony Gilbert, the composers featured on this inaugural ‘Bracing Change’ album of new string commissions, are as contrasting in their responses to it as they are individual in character across their musical output. Together, their new works – two quartets and a quintet – are a reminder that the medium has thrived for some 250 years not merely by adapting to change, but by inspiring all sorts of new music at its pioneering edge.

“Holt’s vivid score here oscillates between furious counterpoint and passages of defiant poise…Dennehy’s post-minimalist The weather of it is at once dynamic an tender, the sweetness of his harmony piqued with mitrotonal scoring…[Gilbert’s Haven of Mysteries] is graceful, tightly-structured and monumental in scope, well-matched by the luscious, vital timbre conjured by the Carducci Quartet and cellist Guy Johnston.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2017 ****

“Holt’s 3rd Quartet is six concisely gestic movements that study human indifference to calamity while implying art makes a difference. Donnacha Dennehy’s The Weather of It is an inventive span of minimalism, while Anthony Gilbert’s Haven of Mysteries (with the cellist Guy Johnston) intriguingly examines Chartres Cathedral.” Sunday Times, 30th April 2017

“the vividness of the music [of the Holt] itself, with its typical fondness for extremes of register, nervy, dislocated rhythms, and sudden moments of stasis, is totally compelling on its own abstract terms, too, especially when played so superbly by the Jack Quartet.” The Guardian, 18th May 2017 ****

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NMC - NMCD216

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Flux: New Music – new dance

Flux: New Music – new dance


Bowden:

Airs No Oceans Keep

Fidelio Trio

Frances-Hoad:

The Madness Industry

Onyx Brass

Higgins, G:

Atomic Café

Rambert Orchestra, Paul Hoskins

Quinta:

Themistocles is Captured

Quinta (violin, electronics)

Whitley:

Duo for Violin and Viola

Eloisa-Fleur Thom (violin), Asher Zaccardelli (viola)


Rambert Orchestra

Paul Hoskins, Rambert Music Director, writes ... 'When I thought up the idea of a Rambert Music Fellowship in 2009, I had nothing more than a hunch that Rambert could be an interesting and inspiring place for a composer to be for a year. Since then, the five composers featured on this album have helped to make the fellowship what it is today: a scheme widely admired for the way it supports new music and new dance, and facilitates connections between artists in different fields. Composers, choreographers, dancers and musicians all benefit from being given time and support to develop their practice and to mature. As organisations we can similarly improve our ability to commission work effectively, if we have the confidence to be patient, develop long-term relationships, and work alongside composers throughout their careers.' This album showcases five works by past Rambert Fellows. Gavin Higgins' Atomic Cafe performed by the Rambert Orchestra explores the horror of nuclear Armageddon and is inspired by an 1982 public information film which gave practical, yet in all likelihood quite useless, advice on surviving a nuclear attack. The starting point for Mark Bowden's piano trio Airs No Oceans Keep was Emily Dickinson’s poem ‘I Think that the Root of the Wind is Water’. Exploring the theme of oceanic weather, the piece blends airy sounds, melodic flurries and sudden crashes. Cheryl Frances-Hoad's The Madness Industry for brass quintet was inspired by Jon Ronson’s best-selling book The Psychopath Test. She mimics psychopathic characteristics with frequent changes of time signature, violent outbursts, and a relentless pace. Quinta (stage name of composer Katherine Mann) is a frequent collaborator with Radiohead's Philip Selway. Her otherworldly piece Themistocles is Captured is in three short movements and is performed by the composer on violin, electronics and a Magnetic Resonator Piano (an acoustic piano with a series of electro-magnets set along its strings). Also on this album, fresh from her debut full-length album on NMC, is Kate Whitley's Duo for Violin and Viola, written for a choreography inspired by a sculpture called 'Wrestlers' by Henri Gaudier Brzeska.

“This is a diverse and highly engaging collection of works and, as Rambert’s musical director suggests, listeners should feel welcome to dance in response” BBC Music Magazine, September 2017 ****

“the most original and distinctive voice is heard on Quinta's Themistocles is Captured, whose post-minimal soundscape is held in flux by delicately pulsing rhythms on magnetic resonator piano and electronically manipulated violin. Another NMC treat.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2017

“This disc showcases five dance works by recent [Rambert] fellows...I bet the one you will most want to see danced is Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s The Madness Industry, a succinct piece played by Onyx Brass with perfectly balanced wit and melancholy.” The Guardian, 1st June 2017 ****

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NMC - NMCD232

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Howard Skempton: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Howard Skempton: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner


Skempton:

Only the Sound Remains

Christopher Yates (viola)

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Roderick Williams (baritone)


Read Presto's complete review of this disc here.

Perfectly crafted, deceptively simplistic and distinctively individual, Howard Skempton's compositions have a soundworld all of their own. This new full-length album on NMC perfectly displays his experimental, yet sonorous and tonal music.

Skempton takes on Coleridge's epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and brings it to life, using just solo voice (baritone) and small chamber ensemble. The result is a stunning, dark and hypnotic journey led by the almost constant, magnetic presence of Roderick Williams, for whose voice and dramatic capabilities the piece was conceived.

Only the Sound Remains takes its name from the opening line of The Mill-Water by English poet Edward Thomas. The piece is an evocation of loss and decay, where textures, and melodies mysteriously recur, while others simply fade beautifully out of aural reach. It is written for for sixteen players, including solo viola. This is a stunning premiere recording of two recent works by one of Britain's finest living composers.

“Williams is, as ever, the most spellbinding of story-tellers...one of the many things I love about this work is the curious synergy between composer and performer in that both resist the temptation to gild the lily, and in the recording session I attended it really did seem as if Coleridge’s ‘Wedding-Guest’ was conjuring both text and music into being for the very first time.” Katherine Cooper, Presto Classical, 5th May 2017

“[Skempton's] deceptively simple setting of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (almost all of it!) is hypnotically effective...If at times it’s reminiscent of the sea-voyage movement in Britten’s oratorio St Nicolas, it’s also marvellously evocative.” The Times, 14th April 2017

“The vocal line [in Mariner] is necessarily dominant, given the wealth of imagery to be conveyed, though it helps when Roderick Williams has a clarity of enunciation second to none...[in Only the Sound Remains] Yates is naturally attuned to his concertante role, while Martyn Brabbins secures audible finesse from BCMG...this is a valuable addition to Skempton’s expanding discography.” Gramophone Magazine, June 2017

“[Skempton] judges the balance between reiteration and variety to perfection, while the typical Skempton traits – clarity, deceptive simplicity and apparently familiar yet fresh and capricious language – are all here, sensitively conveyed by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.” BBC Music Magazine, August 2017 *****

“The text is sung, beautifully, by baritone Roderick Williams. Exactly how Skempton's restrained, tonal music works its magic is hinted at in John Fallas’s booklet essay. There’s talk of nine-note scales and four-part canonic textures, though this barely hints at the work’s dramatic power. The piano’s entry at the start of the second stanza made me jump…as an exercise in effective musical storytelling, it's magnificent, and a piece to fall in love with.” The Arts Desk, 29th July 2017

Presto Disc of the Week

5th May 2017

GGramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2017

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NMC - NMCD234

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Brian Elias: Electra Mourns

Brian Elias: Electra Mourns


Elias, B:

Geranos

Psappha, Nicholas Kok

Meet me in the Green Glen

Roderick Williams (baritone) & Susan Bickley (mezzo-soprano)

Once did I breathe another's breath

Roderick Williams (baritone) & Iain Burnside (piano)

Electra Mourns

Susan Bickley (mezzo-soprano) & Nicholas Daniel (cor anglais)

Britten Sinfonia, Clark Rundell


The title work on this new album by Brian Elias sets text from ‘Electra’, a 5th Century BC play by the Greek dramatist Sophocles.

It is sung in the original ancient Greek by mezzo-soprano Susan Bickley, accompanied by cor anglais and string orchestra, and recounts the tale of Electra and the vengeance that she and her brother Orestes take on their mother and stepfather following the murder of their father.

Continuing Elias's fascination with ancient Greece, Geranos is a dramatic and rhythmic ensemble piece inspired by a ritual 'crane dance' associated with Theseus, the mythical king of Athens.

In contrast, the two song cycles on this album are set to texts by English poets. Meet me in the Green Glen for unaccompanied solo voice is a setting of five John Clare poems, here performed by both Susan Bickley and Roderick Williams, and Once did I breathe another's breath for baritone and piano was commissioned for the 2013 Ludlow Weekend of English Song; the poems (some anonymous) were all written in the fi rst half of the seventeenth century.

“This recording [of Geranos] alternates baritone and mezzo, with Roderick Williams bringing an elegant lyricism to the opening song and Susan Bickley a touching vulnerability to 'Love's Pains'...Bickley and Nicholas Daniel are assured in their contributions [to Electra Mourns], with Clark Rundell drawing requisite intensity from the Britten Sinfonia.” Gramophone Magazine, July 2017

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NMC - NMCD235

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Simon Holt: a table of noises

Simon Holt: a table of noises


Holt, Simon:

a table of noises

St Vitus in the kettle

witness to a snow miracle


This fourth, full-length album of music by multi award-winning composer Simon Holt on NMC showcases his highly narrative orchestral compositions. His violin concerto witness to a snow miracle – here performed by the prodigiously talented Chloë Hanslip – depicts the story of the life, and particularly gruesome death, of St Eulalia of Merida. From the initial, frenzied cadenza in the solo violin we get a sense of the torment and horror the saint suffered at the hands of the Romans: her flesh torn with hooks, fl ames applied to the wounds, and her body buried in hot coals. A blanket of snow fell on her ashes, at which point she was declared a saint. Holt's other award-winning concerto on this album is a much more upbeat and quirky affair. Written for and performed on this recording by one of the world's fi nest percussionists, Colin Currie, a table of noises introduces us to Holt's taxidermist great uncle Ashworth, a kind of maverick scientist-cum-collector. Currie says "this percussion concerto exuberantly tears up the manual on how to approach the medium and I am thrilled with the idiosyncratic, adventurous results". The soloist is seated on a cajon (a box-shaped instrument often used in fl amenco), and apart from the xylophone and glockenspiel, all the other instruments are laid out on a table in front of the soloist; hence the title. Each brief movement has a descriptive title (eg. a drawer full of eyes (discovered by Holt’s mother in Ash’s bedroom tallboy and Skennin’ Mary (a neighbour with a glass eye that spun when she became angry) and is linked by fi ve “ghost” orchestral interludes.

The short, dazzling, orchestral work St Vitus in the kettle was commissioned by BBC National Orchestra of Wales during Holt's tenure as Composer-in-Association (2008-2014). The grisly end for this saint was a cauldron of boiling hot lead!

“quick-witted and haunting. Colin Currie is the soloist in this affectionate and entertaining work, while Nicholas Collon conducts the Hallé” Financial Times, 31st March 2017

“The performances are difficult to fault” Gramophone Magazine, May 2017

“Witness to a Snow Miracle, for violin and orchestra, is not only one of Simon Holt’s finest achievements to date, but one of the most memorable British orchestral scores of the last 30 years...Hanslip’s solo violin seems to veer between portraying the child saint herself and being an onlooker at her gruesome martyrdom.” The Guardian, 23rd March 2017 *****

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NMC - NMCD218

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Kate Whitley: I am I say

Kate Whitley: I am I say


Whitley:

I am I say

Sarah-Jane Lewis (soprano), Ashley Riches (bass)

The Multi-Story Orchestra, Choirs from Kender, Lyndhurst and John Donne Primary Schools, Peckham

Viola Concerto

Shiry Rashkovsky (viola)

The Multi-Story Orchestra

Five Piano Pieces

Rolf Hind (piano)

Three Violin and Piano Pieces

Eloisa Fleur-Thorn (violin), Kate Whitley (piano)

Duo for Violin and Viola

Eloisa Fleur-Thorn (violin), Asher Zaccardelli (viola)


Christopher Stark

Kate Whitley (b.1989) is a composer, pianist, and producer. Awards include a 2015 British Composer Award, a 2014 Borletti Buitoni Trust Special Award and the 2013 Sky Academy Futures Fund Bursary for her work in bringing classical music out of the concert hall and into new contexts.

Kate Whitley is Co-founder and Artistic Director (with conductor Christopher Stark) of The Multi-Story Orchestra, which launched in 2011 with a critically acclaimed performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring in the disused multi-storey Peckham Car Park in south east London, to an audience of over 1,500.

NMC launches the app R:STRNG in March 2017. Using fragements of Whitley's 3 Pieces for Violin and Piano as a starting point, this app features a specially devised re-mix by Olugbenga Adelekan, of Mercury Prize nominated band Metronomy. Designed to meet the KS3 and KS4 curriculum, the app provides the remix software for students to create their own re-mixes of Kate's piece using the same techniques as Adelekan.

Debut Discs is NMC’s acclaimed showcase series for the most gifted composers from the British Isles who have a proven and growing reputation, and a strong selection of works from which to create their fi rst full-length portrait album.

“NMC's invaluable Debut Discs series provides a snapshot of a fresh and individual creative voice, sometimes still finding itself, often speaking clear and true” BBC Music Magazine, May 2017 ****

“This latest of NMC’s invaluable Debut Discs deserves to bolster her reputation. Not least in the chamber domain, where she evinces real insight into instrumental character…performances are finely attuned to the music at hand, with succinct notes on each piece and an introduction from Kerry Andrew. Make no mistake, Kate Whitley is a composer to watch” Gramophone Magazine, May 2017

“Unpretentious, appealingly vigorous and visceral music...This debut portrait album showcases Whitley, who is not yet 30, as a lush harmonist, an orchestrator who handles instruments boldly... and a melodist who isn’t afraid of big rhapsodic elegies. The performances are direct and excellent.” The Guardian, 30th March 2017 ****

“Capricious yet cogent, Whitley’s music has admirably user-friendly surfaces that conceal hidden intensities. We will hear much more of her.” The Times, 14th April 2017

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NMC Debut Discs - NMCD229

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Tarik O'Regan: A Celestial Map of the Sky

Tarik O'Regan: A Celestial Map of the Sky


O'Regan:

A Celestial Map of the Sky

Hallé, Hallé Youth Choir & The Manchester Grammar School Choir, Sir Mark Elder

Latent Manifest

Hallé, Jamie Phillips

RaÏ

Hallé, Jamie Phillips

Chaâbi

Hallé, Jamie Phillips

Fragments from Heart of Darkness

Hallé, Jamie Phillips

Now fatal change

BONUS TRACK (download only single)

Ryland Angel (countertenor) & Lara St. John (violin)


Tarik O'Regan's title work A Celestial Map of the Sky, here performed by a children's choir with the Hallé, is a vibrant work with propulsive, syncopated rhythms contrasting darker moments of refl ection. The work is inspired by two woodcuts engraved by German polymath Albrecht Dürer in 1510 that are amongst the oldest known printed European star charts of the northern and southern celestial hemispheres.

A deep-rooted interest in North African traditional music (Tarik's family are from Morocco and Algeria) shapes two of the orchestral works on this album. Raï and Chaâbi are not ethnographic studies but are infl uenced by Algerian folk music forms.

Latent Manifest is an ingenious expansion of a single gesture from a Bach sonata, magnifi ed to create an entire universe of orchestral colour.

To close the album, Fragments from Heart of Darkness draws on the music from O'Regan's chamber opera Heart of Darkness, based on the novel of the same name by Joseph Conrad.

The bonus download track, Now fatal change, for countertenor and violin, is a reworking of material found in Chaâbi and is set to the same text by Nahum Tate that Purcell used for Tell me, some pitying angel.

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NMC - NMCD220

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War Memorials: Music for Brass Band

War Memorials: Music for Brass Band


includes

Britten:

Fanfare for St. Edmundsbury for three trumpets

Occasional Overture, Op. 38

Holloway, R:

War Memorials (2), Op. 50

McCabe, J:

The Maunsell Forts (Nocturne for brass band)

Pankhurst:

Voices (In memoriam)


Tredegar Town Band & Cory Band, Ian Porthouse, Philip Harper & Robert Childs

The period between the two world wars was one of the richest in music composed for brass bands. Elgar, Holst, Vaughan Williams, Herbert Howells, Arthur Bliss, John Ireland and others added their voices to a growing repertoire, but little of that paid tribute to the loss of so many young lives, countless brass musicians among them. The musical war memorials receiving their first recorded performances here are of more recent vintage. They are framed by the music of Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), whose pacifist sympathies are enshrined in some of his finest music, the War Requiem being the most well known.

“The Tredegar Town Band revels [the Occasional Overture’s] winning combination of nonchalance and bustling virtuosity, its optimistic vision of post-war reconstruction complementing the often fraught and sombre character of much of the rest of the programme.” BBC Music Magazine, January 2017 ****

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NMC - NMCD226

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Mark Bowden: Sudden Light

Mark Bowden: Sudden Light


Bowden:

Lyra

Oliver Coates (cello)

BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Grant Llewellyn

Five Memos

Hyeyoon Park (violin) & Huw Watkins (piano)

Heartland

Julian Warburton (percussion)

BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Grant Llewellyn

Sudden Light

BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Grant Llewellyn


Mark Bowden's passion for orchestral writing and exploring its enormous timbral range is evident on his debut album of works written over the last decade.

The intoxicating Lyra (2011) for cello and orchestra was described 'as a richly allusive work of considerable scope and ambition' by Seen and Heard International and was Bowden's first commission, as resident composer, for BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW). The solo cello part calls for a blistering technique and was written for Oliver Coates, who performs on this recording. The work's title and inspiration has multiple references: a constellation of stars, a bass viol from the seventeenth century, a class of Russian nuclear-powered submarines and the lead character in Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials.

Heartland (2012), also commissioned by BBC NOW, was created as both a standalone percussion concerto and a ballet score for the National Dance Company Wales. The Times review of its World Premiere said that the work 'bubbles with fluid, spicy rhythms and pretty celestial ruminations ... watching Julian Warburton play it was a fascinating show in itself’.

Sudden Light (2005) was inspired by Marcus du Sautoy’s book The Music of the Primes and explores the play of consonance and dissonance through the overtones of the harmonic series.

As a contrast to the orchestral works on this album, Five Memos (2015) is a light, airy interplay between violin and piano, performed beautifully by Hyeyoon Park (violin) and Huw Watkins (piano).

“the systems Bowden sets up [in Sudden Light] generate climaxes of great power, and his confidence in handling such large orchestral forces is unmistakable.” The Guardian, 13th October 2016 ****

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NMC Debut Discs - NMCD214

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Emily Howard: Magnetite

Emily Howard: Magnetite


Howard, Emily:

Magnetite

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrew Gourlay

Threnos

Lucy Goddard (mezzo-soprano) & Simon Whiteley (bass)

Mesmerism

Alexandra Dariescu (piano)

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrew Gourlay

Leviathan

scapegoat

Solar

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Andrew Gourlay

Afference

Elias String Quartet


Emily Howard’s degree in maths and computer science has informed her work, but, as she stresses, "I’m a composer, not a mathematician.

My compositions embrace a diverse range of extra-musical influences including science, mathematics, philosophy, poetry, sport and chess, often simultaneously".

Magnetite (2007) was Howard’s first major orchestral commission for the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Magnetite is the oldest known magnetic substance and Howard describes this piece as "a journey deep inside one of these crystals". Continuing a similar theme, Solar (2010) creates a musical image of our sun, using luminous, resonant sonorities and bursts of energy.

Mesmerism (2011) for piano and chamber orchestra is one in a series of works inspired by Ada Lovelace, the pioneering mathematician and daughter of Byron. This piece won a British Composer Award in 2012 with the BASCA judges commenting that 'the harmonic language of the music is lucid and beautiful, sustaining at the heart of the piece a great sense of stillness. This is an original voice'.

Works for smaller forces on this album include Afference (2014) for string quartet; Leviathan (2014-15) for baritone saxophone and percussion and Threnos (2015), a three-part song for bass and soprano voices (including the bass voice in falsetto).

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NMC - NMCD219

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