Ailish Tynan / Martyn Brabbins

Judith Weir: The Welcome Arrival of Rain

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This CD, with Martyn Brabbins leading the BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Orchestra, gathers five of Judith Weir's most important orchestral works written between 1991 and 2002. The most recent piece is The Welcome Arrival of Rain, for large orchestra, which she wrote as a reflection on the annual monsoons of the Indian subcontinent. Her harmonic language here is somewhat reminiscent of Britten's, but her sense of timing is very much her own. Without resorting to the clichés of orchestration to depict the coming storm, she manages to convey both the feeling of stasis that comes with long waiting and a sense that there is in fact something momentous moving closer. Moon and Stars for orchestra and double chorus, which uses a text by Emily Dickinson, is breathtakingly lovely. Weir's orchestration is magical -- shimmering and incandescent -- a gorgeous evocation of the vastness and distance of space, the subject of Dickinson's poem. Here, too, time seems to be moving at two speeds, depicting the perception of the infinite slowness of astral bodies and the more feverish human reaction to them. Forest, another piece that takes the natural world as its subject, on some subliminal level conjures up imagery associated with the title. The performances are clean, straightforward, and somewhat restrained; Brabbins could probably have made them even more effective by pushing for a little more rhythmic flexibility and more uninhibited expressiveness. NMC's sound is clear but a little dry, missing the opulence that would make this music really shine.

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