Brunel Ensemble / Christopher Austin

Red Leaves

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Christopher Austin and the Brunel Ensemble devote considerable energy to promote modern and contemporary music; their 1996 performances of works by Robert Saxton, Elisabeth Lutyens, John McCabe, and Malcolm Williamson show the musicians' wide embrace of all styles, techniques, and expressions; and this well-balanced CD is intelligently arranged to give the extremely varied works a clear presentation. Saxton's starkly dramatic Elijah's Violin provides a firm mooring for the program, and its bracing dissonant counterpoint and somber orchestration contrast well with the more delicately atmospheric or dazzling pieces that follow. McCabe's Red Leaves is perhaps the most accessible of these for its tonal references, and its attractive English horn solo evokes the autumnal moods of New England rather effectively. The Symphony No. 7 for strings is also likable for its bright, neo-classical flavor, and Williamson's admirable craftsmanship is everywhere in evidence. Lutyens, however, is the most fascinating composer of the four, and her crystalline Bagatelles, Op. 113, and the haunting O Saisons, ô Châteaux, Op. 13, are exquisite creations that fully demonstrate the poetic richness of her serial language. If there is one reason to hear this album, then hearing Lutyens is it, for her music warrants much deeper exploration and appreciation. Cala's sound is clean and focused.

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