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These live recordings of three modern classics reflect the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s strong commitment to contemporary composers. The first two are breakthrough works from 1990 by British composers Thomas Adès and James MacMillan, the third a spectacular concerto by Jennifer Higdon, one of America’s most successful composers. Marin Alsop and Colin Currie give impassioned performances revealing the full range of emotions contained in the music. Marin Alsop has made many previous recordings with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. These include the entire set of Brahms symphonies and a number of contemporary works by the orchestra’s Composer in Residence Mark-Anthony Turnage.
James MacMillan: The Confession of Isobel Gowdie
The Confession of Isobel Gowdie
Thomas Ades: Chamber Symphony, Op. 2
Jennifer Higdon: Percussion Concerto
(on the Higdon)
“Whistles and whoops greeted this invigorating première.”
(on the MacMillan)
“Exciting music, excitingly performed; from Alsop you expect nothing else.”
“…a moving, compelling performance, and coupled with strong accounts of the phenomenal Adès Chamber Symphony… and Jennifer Higdon's essentially old-fashioned but well-wrought Percussion Concerto, this disc would make an excellent present for an open-minded new music agnostic.”
“Vivid accounts of visceral, career-launching contemporary works. Where Adès intrigues listeners, James MacMillan fairly bludgeons them into submission with The Confession of Isobel Gowdie… Marin Alsop, moreover, has its measure far more than Sir Colin Davis, while the LPO give everything in an account that should convince those hearing the piece for the first time.”
“Not the least notable aspects of this CD are the two works, both dating from 1990, that launched their composers' careers. In Thomas Adès's Chamber Symphony, an often oblique musical syntax binds fragmentary ideas and textures into a cumulative whole; its motifs moving purposefully through a 'slow movement' and 'scherzo' before finding repose in an exquisite coda. All the more pity, then, that this vivid but fallible reading does not quite match that by the composer. Where Adès intrigues listeners, James Mac- Millan fairly bludgeons them into submission with The Confession of Isobel Gowdie, though this depiction of a 17th-century Scottish woman tortured then burnt at the stake for witchcraft could hardly afford to be self-effacing. And the initial accumulation of intensity, spilling over into an extended onslaught then recalling the opening in expressively heightened terms before the accusatory final crescendo, is nothing if not powerful. Marin Alsop has its measure, while the LPO give everything in an account that should convince those hearing the piece for the first time. Jennifer Higdon's Percussion Concerto (2005) might also be found engaging on first hearing. The solo part, dispatched with aplomb by Colin Currie, is disappointingly limited in its invention and rhythmic profile, while the orchestral part – a mild distillation of Stravinskian and Coplandesque gestures – is unlikely to set the pulse racing. The sound and booklet are on a par with earlier LPO releases, however, making this disc well worth investigating for the Mac- Millan alone.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.