Originally published on January 22

Four choice pieces by Sir Harrison Birtwistle (born 1934) beginning with Trio (for violin/Lawrence Power, cello/Adrian Brendel, and piano/Tim Horton; 2011), a restless fifteen-minute work, its single movement intense, expressive (Expressionist) and gripping in its mood-changes and charging-forward development to an exhausted conclusion. Duet for Eight Strings (2018), for viola and cello (eight strings), is also cast in a single movement, of twenty minutes this time. Power (now on viola) and Brendel, in the work’s first recording, feed off each other’s expressions, quite romantic at times, to sustain the listener’s interest, with colours, dynamics, suspenseful atmospheres and volatility to relish. Just two instruments but plenty of incident.

Pulse Sampler (1981/2018), for oboe and percussion, is a classic, a high-wire act for both performers, here Melinda Maxwell and, on a variety of instruments to hit, Richard Benjafield, with no pause for the oboist (in performance he/she needs a row of music-stands, for there is literally no place with time to turn pages). It’s a scintillating piece given a thrilling outing here. In the Oboe Quartet (2009-10) the oboist is now Gareth Hulse, the violinist is Benjamin Nabarro, with Power and Brendel remaining in their viola and cello roles. There are four movements, each with a metronome mark, and the invention is diverting and involving, whatever the tempo. Wonderful interplay from these musicians.

Excellent tangible sound, ideal for chamber music (Kings Place, London, January last year), the listener part of the performances, is complemented by a sympathetic and perceptive booklet note from Bayan Northcott. BIS-2561 [SACD] is released on February the Fourth.


Clare Hammond Variations on BIS.