NMC @ 20 and New Notes online
Not quite 100 new British (with a couple of Irish) songs to texts old and new, recorded at the new Kings Place Hall 1 prior to its opening festival, to celebrate the label's 20th anniversary.
SPNM's New Notes has for long been the important resource for followers of new music trends in Britain. Now they are launching a new organisation, Sound & Music, and the current issue carries an innovation, computer links highlighted on every page, but since the URLs are not printed, likely to be available only to subscribers. However, for the launch the March 2009 issue can be read by everyone at
There you will find a three page essay about the NMC Songbook by Bayan Northcott, which tells how the project grew beyond expectations, with far more than 100 composers writing songs for token payment of a bottle of bubbly (they didn't all manage to keep to the prescribed three minute limit).
I have enjoyed many of them but am glad that Northcott spares us the task of reviewing 100 new compositions; far better to sample those of the composers whose names catch your eye and read Bayan Northcott's overview.
On p. 11 you will find an interview with Nicola LeFanu, leading champion of women composers (interestingly, that not mentioned) about her life in music as student, teacher, composer and listener. And pages 12-18 are given over to the listings, formerly London-centric, nowadays country-wide. Read the entries there in print size of your choice, and follow the links on each entry to learn more about the organisations. The paper edition's designer would do well to consider the poor eyesight of some readers by eliminating the pale green venues listings; but all is well online !
PETER GRAHAME WOOLF
There will be launch concerts of the SongBook for a week Monday 30th March 2009 - Sunday 5th April 2009 at Kings Place, where the discs were recorded and can be bought, and there is a UTube vodcast about the making of The NMC Songbook at http://nmc.greedbag.com/.
The NMC SongBook has made headway and is shortlisted for Gramophone awards 2009.
The indefatigable Colin Matthews has now turned his attention to rescuing Unknown Britten. If you are one of those who bought the Complete Mozart Edition (Brilliant, 170 CD Box Set, R) you'll perhaps be keen to explore every note that Britten left in manuscript...
Zehetmair is noted for high octane performances with his sting quartet and this orchestra, and there is an engaging account of his earliest song cycle Les Illuminations.by Sandra Piau. Wisely, the discarded songs are given as an appendix, with no attempt to integrate them into the published sequence.
High hopes were quickly dashed; the rest of the disc doesn't amount to much. The other fragments etc would make (probably have made) a good seminar in a music department, but they will disappoint Britten enthusiasts at large; nothing here to claim a place in the repertoire.
Joanna BAILIE Simon BAINBRIDGE Martin BUTLER Philip CASHIAN Edward COWIE Joe DUDDELL Brian ELIAS Christopher FOX Dai FUJIKURA Anthony GILBERT Morgan HAYES Simon HOLT Vic HOYLAND Colin MATTHEWS Melinda MAXWELL Peter MAXWELL DAVIES Bayan NORTHCOTT Anthony PAYNE Naomi PINNOCK Philip VENABLES James WEEKS Simon WILLS
NMC D160 [130 mins, recorded live 4-6 June 2009; 2CDs for the price of 1]
A brief welcome with every enthusiasm for this compilation of commissions, from senior figures in British music and younger composers, for the thirtieth anniversary of Endymion, a chamber ensemble formed in 1979 from a group of outstanding National Youth Orchestra students.
The first half of these two discs listened to upon receipt (April 2010) has made for an entrancing half hour's listening. Accessible, fresh music, recorded "live" (apparently before astonishingly silent audiences) to highest standards in Hall One, Kings Place, which has proved to be one of UK's best recording venues. See review of one of those Endymion concerts in Musical Criticism - there is some discrepancy; it took place on 8 June...
The discs are officially launched this coming weekend, and audio samples are promised "soon".
Recommended as essential listening for followers of British contemporary music.
Peter Grahame Woolf