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Julian Anderson - Book of Hours

Imagin'd Corners
Four American Choruses
Book of Hours

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra/ Martyn Brabbins / Sakari Oramo
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus/ Simon Halsey
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group/ Oliver Knussen

NMC D121 [TT: 80 mins]

Celebrating a bright light in the UK's composing firmanent, this admirable CD has unity in diversity by bringing together performances of significant works of 2001-2005 derived from Julian Anderson’s residences in Birmingham’s contemporary music scene, working with the city’s famous Symphony Orchestra and its choral and intrumental satellites.

Eden, the newest, makes a captivating opener, with solo viola and cello, played without vibrato, suggesting viols, a Renaissance link furthered by Anderfson’s adoption of non-tempered tuning. There is hocketing and luscious melody. Imagin’d Corners (2001-2) features five horns and orchestra and exploits spatial possibilities, doubtless more excitingly in the concert situation. Eden (its Beautiful Valley) features again in the most adventurous of the Ivesian choruses which clear the aural palate after the first two orchestral items; its complexities require sectional conductors, all negotiated confidently here. Symphony is disconcertingly inaudible at first, and may send you back to the CD player to see if you've programmed it correctly. It develops through a mixture of pitch and noise and becomes enrichened with acceleration to a series of variations on an underlying 5-pitch germ, resolving into overlapping chords and a final thunderclap. Several hearings needed to digest this unique work, but NMC is prolific in presenting these riches in a generous five-course meal, with bells and electronics to diversify the textures of Birmingham's smaller Contemporary Music Group.

One of NMC's best, and presented with full and helpful annotations. If you enjoy it as much as we did, you'll want Oliver Knussen's CD of Anderson's earlier music (Ondine ODE10122).

Peter Grahame Woolf