The music of composer Julian Anderson uses a great variety of technical and formal procedures, but it is unified by its frequent use of surfaces that suggest extramusical ideas, and of textures from folk traditions. Both tendencies are on display in this attractive group of Anderson works performed by the Nash Ensemble, led in the larger pieces by the indefatigable conductor Martyn Brabbins. The album takes its name from a movement of Poetry Nearing Silence, a work based on a piece of visual art inspired by "an obscure late Victorian novel" (Anderson); the artist, Tom Phillips, illustrated random phrases from the book, and Anderson, in turn, represented these illustrations. Sample within this work for an idea of Anderson's music. The second movement, "Know Vienna," is aptly described by Anderson as "somewhere between a disjoined waltz and a blues," while "In Bohemia, Screwing" (a title not further explained) alludes both to Eastern European folk music and to Janáček. The procedure may seem random, but the work is quite evocative. The same is true of the other major work on the program, the directly programmatic Van Gogh Blue. Prayer and Another Prayer, for solo viola and solo violin respectively (the second work is an elaboration of the first), suggest Jewish cantillation, while The Colour of Pomegranates was inspired by an Armenian film. The opening Ring Dance evokes the Norwegian Hardanger fiddle, and The Bearded Lady refers to a scene in the libretto of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress. The unusual textures of the music require a crack level of virtuosity. It receives this from the Nash Ensemble, and the end result is a set of contemporary pieces that are rigorous, yet accessible, to anybody.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
|Poetry Nearing Silence|
|Van Gogh Blue|