Oliver Knussen / BBC Symphony Orchestra / London Sinfonietta

Julian Anderson: Alhambra Fantasy

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The young British composer Julian Anderson has gained major performances and plenty of acclaim for his Book of Hours and other compositions; this CD collects some of his earlier orchestral works in performances (all are reissued) by a sympathetic conductor who has championed him, Oliver Knussen. Anderson uses, by his own description, materials that are diatonic but not tonal. The Alhambra Fantasy of 2000 provided him with inspiration suitable to his gifts. His style makes use of small motifs and planes of sound that are brought together and made to overlap. Without the slightest reference to conventional aural images of Spain, Anderson forges a consistently compelling 11-minute structure that seems organically linked to the atom patterns of Islamic architecture. Dance is another interest of Anderson -- and again not in the usual way. You can't tap your foot to his music, but hints of various kinds of music intended for dancing come through in the other works on this album. These include Indonesian gamelan music, which Anderson has studied intensively, incorporating its layers and cycles into his own music but avoiding the gongs, the usual avenue of influence. The opening work, Khorovod (1994), manages to use the intervallic repetitiveness of a Russian folk dance in a way that has little reference to nationalist idioms, or even to Stravinsky. Built of simple materials, Anderson's music is nevertheless challenging. A good introduction to the work of this rising British composer.

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