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Beauty and Terror new directions in creative music
Unknown Public UP11 [72'50"] (PGW)

11.01 Venetian Underground (Philip Sheppard)
11.02 Jezebel (Recoil)
11.03 Desire (The Canton Opera Company)
11.04 Anneli und Hansli (Beat J Bruderlin)
11.05 Cesspool called History/Harlem Nocturne (Lydia Lunch)
11.06 Verso (De Vito, Taylor, Towner)
11.07 Why Do You Sing? (The Shout)
11.08 M-abuse (Max Nagl Quintet)
11.09 Took Away The Drum (Mighty Mo Rodgers)
11.10 Long John Brown and Little Mary Bell (Mike Westbrook Brass Band)
11.11 Cadenza & Coda for Cello with Orchestra and Tape (Academical Grand Concert Orchestra of Russian State TV & Radio company, Dmitry Tcheglakov (cello)) extract
11.12. Vertigo: Prelude / The Nightmare (The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra) contemporary classic

Perhaps there are still some readers of MusicWeb who are unfamiliar with what Unknown Public has to offer, and might be nervous of their brown cardboard box packaging? (See my previous review of UP10) Inside, the format of their latest release is delectable, separate large cards for each track, with a lot of information and texts of vocal items. As usual, it is a compilation CD, but the excerpts are generous in length (4 to 10 mins) and most items are complete and stand on their own.

They are essential to keep a finger on the pulse of where music is going now, as is obvious from careful study of the changing programmes at South Bank and the Barbican Centres in London; 'symphony concerts' no longer dominate the schedules as they used to. The Unknown Public demonstrate how confusing and inappropriate the term Classical Music has become for this century. Many of the musicians featured are classically trained with impeccable pedigrees but have chosen to straddle a variety of musical worlds in their careers. More and more are doing so. Perhaps promotional quotes from two reputed 'classical' music critics may encourage you to read on a little?
'- - -This uncompromising record label ... gives new bite to the otherwise blunted phrase 'cutting edge'. No style of contemporary music is excluded, but the selection policy is judicious, the results engagingly serendipitous. - - -' Fiona Maddocks, Sunday Times
'- - - opened more doors in an hour than a month of concert-going.- - -' Robert Maycock, The Independent.

If you start at the end, you will probably be comfortable with a sumptuous new recording of Herrmann's music for Hitchcock's Vertigo; I found it intrinsically boring, but you can't please everyone. The penultimate track is fascinating, concertante music by a Russian composer with operas and symphonies to her credit, with a prize-winning cellist who takes part in all sorts of musics. Its young conductor works with Moscow's virtuosos and the Russian National Orchestra. It is a serious piece, based on St Francis of Assisi, using a quite brilliant boy soprano and recorded at the Kondrashin Classical Recording studio, so it must be alright!

Go back to the beginning, and you will meet another classical cellist, Philip Sheppard, the original cellist of the Kreutzer String Quartet. Here he plays five-string electric cello in his own multi-tracked improvisations. And so it goes on, with state-of-the art mixing and recording in most items, a feast of amazing sounds and very pointed songs, some post-punk, some jazz-rooted. If you're worried about the neighbours, the CD may sound even better on headphones!

Jezebel meets her fate; Anneli und Hansli recalls a children's rhyme from reluctant children's taped recitations for Christmas and birthdays; a marvellous improvising choir builds a fine 10 mins structure in I sing because I sing - and here is a link with music of the past. I have been struck by how many compositions of today in all genres use the well-worn 'classical' techniques of building variations over repetitive figures. . That similarity is to be found between music of ages past, the fashionable spiritual minimalism of today, and the more political explorations of powerful ideas and needs to be found here in some of these insistent assaults on our feelings and thoughts.

For full information on Unknown Public visit

Peter Grahame Woolf

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