Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:


era madrugada; canciones;; sparrow night
Nash Ensemble/Lionel Friend with Fiona Kimm (mezzo) & Gareth Hulse (oboe)
NMC D008 [61 mins]

This is darker music than that of Simon Holt's teacher Anthony Gilbert (NMC D068) which has been promoted in tandem with this one. Born 1958, Holt is an acknowledged leader of his generation of British composers, and this portrait CD can be recommended to those unfamiliar with his music, which is championed regularly by London Sinfonietta, the Nash Ensembles and others.

He takes his inspirations often from literary sources, especially Spanish ones. The first illustrates a grim Lorca poem about an unknown dead man 'with a knife in his chest'. The three songs of Canciones too have strong Lorca connections, the poem of the middle of the three his Cancion de Jinette. They are given here in clear accounts, but I found Fiona Kimm's singing in the high registers less than ingratiating.

Shadow realm is 'music to accompany a haunting' for clarinet, harp and cello, and sparrow night a larger work for ten players with oboe solo, and it is linked to a Chekov story about 'terrible nights with thunder, lightning, rain and wind' - "sparrow nights". The Nash Ensemble has lived with this music and is fully at home with its idiom.

Not much comfort or fun, but strong music in a non-doctrinaire contemporary idiom, showing a fertile imagination and command of instrumental textures. The usual high NMC production values, in every respect.

Peter Grahame Woolf

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