Chamber Music

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Chamber Music
Lisa Batiashvili, Adrian Brendel, Till Fellner, Amy Freston, Harrison Birtwistle

[ ECM New Series / CD ]

Release Date: Monday 14 April 2014

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This album of Sir Harrison Birtwistle's chamber music and songs, mostly of recent vintage, is issued as the innovative Great British composer approaches his 80th birthday. It features an exceptional cast. Heard together and separately is the trio of Austrian pianist Till Fellner, Georgian violinist Lisa Batiashvili and English cellist Adrian Brendel. They are joined by London-born singers Amy Freston and Roderick Williams. The compositions include "Bogenstrich" written in 2006 as a short piece in tribute to Alfred Brendel and first played by his son Adrian together with Fellner. It was subsequently expanded into a cycle with the addition of settings of Rilke for baritone, cello and piano. The "Trio" is the newest piece, premiered in 2011, a 16-minute single movement work of elaborate patterning, gestures and responses, for piano, violin and cello. Settings of the writings of US Objectivist poet Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970), scored for soprano and cello in 1998 and 2000, begin and close the album. As Bayan Northcott writes in the booklet, "These concentrated songs demand the utmost of their performers in precision, expression and timing. As in Webern's settings, the few words and notes on the page can seem to imply whole worlds of thought and feeling". This highly-concentrated chamber-scale expressivity is felt throughout the entire album, recorded at Munich's famed Herkulessaal, and produced by Manfred Eicher.

"There are a dozen of [Niedecker's poems] here to which Birtwistle responds with great refinement of sound and procedure...Roderick Williams is very fine in Bogenstrich and the three instrumentalists, quite closely recorded, are in a class any composer would die for." (Gramophone, Aug 2014)

"Terse to the point of aphorism, the [Niedecker settings] are perhaps the most Webern-like of all Birtwistle's works, capable of opening up huge, expressive vistas from just a handful of notes; Amy Freston and Adrian Brendel catch that spareness perfectly." (The Guardian, May 2014)

"All one can do with music as esoteric as this is to remember the greatness of what Birtwistle has written before and go on listening...The singer of what sounds like an extraordinary difficult vocal line is Roderick Williams, always a great artist and here setting a standard it is hard to imagine being equalled." (BBC Music Magazine, July 2014)


Three Settings Of Lorine Niedecker
Always North Of Him
I Was The Solitary Plover
As I Shook Dust From My Father's Door

Trio for violin, violoncello and piano

Liebes-Lied 1
Lied ohne Worte
Wie eine Fuge
Liebes-Lied 2

Nine Settings Of Lorine Niedecker
There's a Better Shine
My Friend Tree
Along The River
Hear Where Her Snowgrave Is
How the White Gulls
My Life
O Late Fall
Sleep's Dream