Pickard - The Flight of Icarus


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Pickard - The Flight of Icarus


Gramophone Magazine

Editor's Choice - June 2008



Catalogue No:




Release date:

3rd March 2008




66 minutes


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Pickard - The Flight of Icarus


The Flight of Icarus (1990)

The Spindle of Necessity for trombone, percussion and strings (1998)

Channel Firing (1993)


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British composer John Pickard has been widely praised for his architectural sense and bold handling of an extended tonal idiom. He is best known for a series of powerful orchestral works, of which The Flight of Icarus has met with particular acclaim. After its première at the PROMS The Times critic wrote: “Pickard's score remains airborne over its 20-minute span rather more proficiently than Icarus, leading the ear and imagination with impressive resourcefulness.”

John Pickard: The Flight of Icarus

The Flight of Icarus

John Pickard: The Spindle of Necessity

The Spindle of Necessity

John Pickard: Channel Firing

Channel Firing

Gramophone Magazine

“A real treat here from a composer I hadn’t heard before, John Pickard. His soundscapes are often rich and not a little threatening, and there is an almost Janá?ekian sense of the inexorability of nature. Had Icarus heard this before venturing too close to the sun, he might have shown more caution.”

The Guardian

25th April 2008


“John Pickard's music is vivid, frankly pictorial, and at its best virtuosically effective, in a style that never seems either self-consciously conservative or too stubbornly middle-of-the-road. The 20-minute orchestral piece The Flight of Icarus is the earliest work here - it was first performed in 1991 - and shows how Pickard can weave a convincing musical narrative out of a literary one, here the Greek myth of Icarus's fatal flight, on top of which are added references to the disasters that accompanied early space exploration. The Spindle of Necessity, from 1998, has a Greek source, too, using Plato's description of his model for the movements of the heavens as the basis for a trombone concerto that inevitably becomes a vehicle for Christian Lindberg's astonishing, extrovert bravura. The third piece here, Channel Firing (1993), seems to me the most personal and deeply felt of the three. Borrowing its title from a famous Hardy poem, it is a memorial to Pickard's teacher William Mathias, and is haunted by a doom-laden quotation from Wagner's Götterdämmerung.”

Gramophone Magazine

June 2008

“Prompting a wonderfully direct, emotive elegy - all the more remarkable for a composer then just 27 … BIS's sound as always is first rate. I cannot recommend this highly enough.”

BBC Music Magazine

Proms 2008


“Pickard is a born master of the orchestra, so BIS's imaginative decision to make this disc deserves high praise. A marvellous disc, urgently recommended.”

Gramophone Classical Music Guide


“In many respects, The Flight of Icarus (1990) was John Pickard's breakthrough work, at least into the wider national consciousness, partly thanks to its London premiere at the 1996 Proms but also due to its clear structure, accessible (though not unchallenging) musical language and the sheer élan of its orchestral writing. Playing continuously, its three compelling sections are indicative of the ascent of Icarus and Daedalus from their Minoan confinement, their exhilarating albeit turbulent flight and Icarus's catastrophic fall, prompting a wonderfully direct, emotive elegy (all the more remarkable for a composer then just 27).
Icarus remains Pickard's best-known orchestral work, unjustly since three years later he trumped it with Channel Firing, written in memory of his teacher, William Mathias.
Inspired by Thomas Hardy's dark pre-Great War poem where the dead in a churchyard are woken by naval gunnery practice and assume it is the Day of Judgement, Pickard constructs a gripping symphonic poem redolent of notquite- apocalypse: it is not time for the dead to be judged, Europe is not yet in the grip of war; but both are coming.
Separating these full-orchestral conceptions is a concerto for trombone, strings and percussion showing a quite different side to his musical character. Like Icarus, The Spindle of Necessity (1998) derives from Greek myth via Plato's Republic. Here the textures are often gossamerthin, with light percussion interweaving with natural string overtones and translucent harmonies.
Lindberg plays the emotionally detached solo part with consummate skill while Brabbins draws sensational playing from the Norrköping orchestra in what must have been terra incognita.
BIS's sound as always is first rate. Highly recommend.”

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