MusicWeb International One of the most grown-up review sites around 2024
60,000 reviews
... and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here Acte Prealable Polish CDs

Presto Music CD retailer
Founder: Len Mullenger                                    Editor in Chief:John Quinn             


Some items
to consider

new MWI
Current reviews

old MWI
pre-2023 reviews

paid for

Acte Prealable Polish recordings

Forgotten Recordings
Forgotten Recordings
All Forgotten Records Reviews

Troubadisc Weinberg- TROCD01450

All Troubadisc reviews

FOGHORN Classics

Brahms String Quartets

All Foghorn Reviews

All HDTT reviews

Songs to Harp from
the Old and New World

all Nimbus reviews

all tudor reviews

Follow us on Twitter

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Contributing Editor
Ralph Moore
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Buy through MusicWeb from £11.00 postage paid World-wide. Try it on Sale or Return
You may prefer to pay by Sterling cheque or Euro notes to avoid PayPal. Contact for details

Musicweb Purchase button


Harrison BIRTWISTLE (b. 1934)
The Fields of Sorrow for two sopranos, chorus and sixteen players (1972) [9:58]
Verses for Ensembles for five woodwind, five brass and three percussion (1969) [28:13]
Nenia: The Death of Orpheus - a 'dramatic scene' for soprano, three bass clarinets, clarinet, piano, prepared piano and crotales (1970) [17:45]
Jane Manning (soprano); London Sinfonietta/David Atherton; The Matrix/Alan Hacker (Nenia).
rec. January, May 1973, Kingsway Hall, London. ADD
first released in 1974 on Decca LP HEAD 7
recording made in association with British Council and in presence of the composer
LYRITA SRCD.306 [56:08]

Experience Classicsonline

Harrison Birtwistle was born in Accrington and studied at the then Royal Manchester College of Music with Richard Hall. With John Ogdon, Alexander Goehr and Peter Maxwell Davies he formed a performing cell that came to be known as the New Music Manchester Group. Since then he quickly rose to eminence and his latest opera The Minotaur has been premiered at Covent Garden and has had a BBC4 broadcast – a rare honour. He is not a minimalist - spiritual or otherwise. His writing revels with mastery and intriguing effect in a palette that admits dissonance and discontinuity. In his time he has seen his music rise into culturally sympathetic times but then gradually find itself adrift in the age of new tonality.

There are three works here and the total playing time is down to the LP format on which they were first issued during the Glock era. The depth of directional information is constantly satisfying in all these pieces and the original Decca engineers did an immaculate job. Listen to the subtle placing of the tiers of voices in The Fields of Sorrow which is, for Birtwistle, a gentle essay. Its elements might well have traced their fons et origo from Warlock’s The Curlew, from Vaughan Williams’ vocalising soprano in Sinfonia Antartica and from the intoned-mumbled round dance of the choir at the stately core of Holst’s Hymn of Jesus yet synthesised and refracted by Birtwistle into something rich and strange. The corncrake rasp and strangled Stravinskianisms of the wind parts in Verses for Ensembles contrasts with the graffiti of tom-toms, gongs and cymbals. The effect recalls similarly refracted and jagged writing in Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre. The textures and musical patins are in constant and provocative flux. The score is alive with the sound of the clarinet and percussion. Throaty strident fanfares bark and call. In this version of Nenia Jane Manning is the centre-focus in a performance that towers in its virtuosity. She sings, mumbles, mutters and speaks the words by Peter Zinovieff who also wrote the libretto for The Mask of Orpheus. Often each word is given a different sound – a different treatment. Manning imbues each one with a satisfying depth of allusion and the impression of ancient ceremonies. An affecting continuity is captured in the epilogue over an extended period where Manning speaks the words.

The words are printed in full. The satisfying notes are by Lyrita regular Paul Conway.

It is intriguing how the balance of the Lyrita catalogue is changing as a result of the admission of all these British Council sponsored recordings. Lyrita used to be the sanctuary of the lyrical British traditions. True, they did record Searle’s first two symphonies and the Third and Fourth by Robert Still. However the label’s hallmark was the tonality of the British Musical Renaissance. Now a slew of British Council recordings – with more to come – is equalising the balance. The irony is that Lyrita first rose to high prominence in the early 1970s at the very time when the new Decca Headline label was launched which included this clutch of works. Now Lyrita moves to rescue these tapes from oblivion and from the turned heads of fashion.

Rob Barnett




Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical
All Naxos reviews

Hyperion recordings
All Hyperion reviews

Foghorn recordings
All Foghorn reviews

Troubadisc recordings
All Troubadisc reviews

all Bridge reviews

all cpo reviews

Divine Art recordings
Click to see New Releases
Get 10% off using code musicweb10
All Divine Art reviews

All Eloquence reviews

Lyrita recordings
All Lyrita Reviews


Wyastone New Releases
Obtain 10% discount

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing




Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Past and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Return to Review Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.