Interview with composer and notes by Jonathan Cross in English DDD
Usually despatched in 4 - 5 working days.
World premiere recording of the Axe Manual “one of Birtwistle’s most important recent works” (The Guardian) with all Birtwistle’s published piano music to date.
From the modal Oockooing Bird to the monumental Axe Manual, Harrison Birtwistle’s piano works stretch across his entire compositional career. Whether written for a large public forum or as occasional pieces for friends and family, all the works on this disc reveal a composer committed to exploring the sonorities and physicality of the modern piano in new and exciting ways.
The Axe Manual, a play on its commissioner Emanuel Ax, is a “manual” both in the sense that it is a sort of compendium of rhythmic devices and a manual of keyboards, piano, marimba and vibraphone. Harrison’s Clocks “is a kind of deconstructed clock” says Birtwistle “Clocks have many facets – set of layers of cogs moving at different speeds"
“A performance of pianistic poetry that catches the music’s dusky tone”
“Though most of the items in this indispensable collection of Birtwistle's keyboard music last five minutes or less, two are on a scale commensurate with the orchestral Triumph of Time or Secret Theatre. In Harrison's Clocks (1997-8) simultaneously unfolding strata demonstrate that 'interdependent independence' of which Birtwistle often speaks. On one level, the music is potently mechanical, welded together from clearly defined rhythmic patterns which recur and collide like meshing cogs. Yet lying behind these mechanics is that background of complex associations with myth and ritual that's never far away in any Birtwistle composition, even the shortest and simplest. The first recording of The Axe Manual (2000), reveals it as an exuberant, and, in its central stages, delicate essay in 'extending' piano sound by means of metal and wood percussion. It turns fascination with tone-colour and texture into an absorbing musical drama, a battle with and against time that has an intensely human urgency and passion. It's a tribute to the quality of the WDR Cologne recording, excellent throughout, that the balance between the two performers seems so effortlessly right. Nicolas Hodges is an accomplished guide to these varied perspectives, never over-nuancing the understated poetry of the miniatures, but meeting with total authority all the technical and interpretative challenges of the larger works.”
Click on any of the works listed above for alternative recordings.