Magazine article Gramophone

Birtwistle: Birtwistle Angel Fighter

Magazine article Gramophone

Birtwistle: Birtwistle Angel Fighter

Article excerpt

Birtwistle [G]

Birtwistle Angel Fighter (a). In Broken

Images. Virelai (Sus une fontayne)

(a) Andrew Watts counterten

(a) Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts ten

(a) BBC Singers; London Sinfonietta / David Atherton

NMC [F] NMCD211 (54' * DDD * T)

As co-founder of the London Sinfonietta in 1968, David Atherton has been responsible premieres down the decades: his first was the English Opera Group production of Punch and Judy, just as the Sinfonietta was being set up. Now, more than 40 years on, they and Atherton return with a group of recent Birtwistle scores; and anyone in 2015 disposed to expect ageing dinosaurs going through the motions should be struck by the energy and sharpness of response in these recordings.

Sharpness--remaining consistent without falling back into cliche--is also what Birtwistle's music is about. The poem by Robert Graves that lies behind In Broken Images refers disarmingly to 'a new understanding of my confusion' as a result of becoming 'sharp, mistrusting my broken images', and Birtwistle's music today is just as lacking in complacency as it was in 1968. Angel Fighter starts with the advantage of a pithy text by Stephen Plaice, librettist of The Io Passion (one of several large-scale Birtwistle works still awaiting commercial recording), and this 'dramatic episode from Genesis' depicts the brutal confrontation between a human sinner, Jacob (tenor), and an implacably euphonious angel (countertenor). …

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