Composer David Sawer has a sparse, angular style that reflects the influences of Stravinsky and of the German modernism he encountered as a student. To these, he adds a theatrical orientation that makes his music unusually accessible. The six-movement Rumpelstiltskin Suite for winds recorded here, abstracted from a 70-minute ballet, is an excellent example. The composer terms this fairy tale "a grotesque fable for our times," and indeed, its economic overtones suggest modernity to a unique degree. Eminem mentions it (in "The Monster"). Sawer's score is fairly specific in its references, and it passes the test for ballet suites: it does mightily make you want to hear the whole ballet. Sample the finale with the angry imp, acrid rather than violent, to hear what Sawer can do by forcing his wind instruments into awkward angles. The other works on the album are a bit more abstract and perhaps less immediately appealing, but they hold the listener's attention. The bonus track Between is a lovely harp nocturne. April/March is an experiment in reversing musical time, while Cat's Eye evokes an old projection illusion device rather than the eye of an actual cat. Notice should be made of the crackling work of the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and the indefatigable conductor Martyn Brabbins, who at this writing has made five albums in 2019, and counting. They do the music full justice on a delightful album of work by a composer who deserves to be better known.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2