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Sadie Harrison An unexpected light and Roger Marsh Pierrot Lunaire Rondels

NMC D125 & D127

NMC has struck gold with these two CDs, each unique but helping to define one aspect of what is special about this third part of the new millennium; music which combines a personal musical language with international influences, CDs which merit consideration as wholes, not just as a sequence of items.

Sadie Harrison's The Light Garden was "a 'cross-over' offering of the highest quality, suffused with a deep knowledge and love for Afghanistan". For this new compilationshe turns her attention to the folk music of Lithuania, Georgia, Khojent (now Russian Ferghana) and Armenia, amongst others, countries in which rich and various musical cultures thrived until a hundred years ago.

The new album's title work An unexpected light is a concerto which juxtaposes folk musics with aggressive more modernistic writing 'a metaphor for the struggle between cultures'. The disc is dedicated to producer/sound engineer David Lefeber for his support "against the odds".

The music is all instrumental, but a lot of it song-based, notably Seven Lithuanian Songs for solo violin; the whole features violinist Rusne Mataityte with various intrumental combinations from duo and trio with piano, string quartet and string orchestra with percussion. A wonderful sequence which held us enthralled, playing the programme through with only one brief pause; a marvellous 'concert' which builds on the legacy of Bartok's and Kodaly's pioneering collecting long ago, and gives 'cross-over' a new and enriched meaning; a disc to which we will return.

Britain's university departments and music academies have the resources to bring off grandiose projects which enliven the country's musical life immeasurably. Notable examples covered recently by Musical Pointers have been the Lachenmann Festival at Royal College of Music (in association with London Sinfonietta), and in my home neighbourhood Trinity College of Music's recent Wired-Up electronics music festival; and last year a Rzewski Festival in which a multitude of student and staff pianists shared the all-day world premiere of this composer's marathon The Road.

Roger Marsh's project on Albert Giraud's Pierrot Lunaire (likely known to most readers only through Schoenberg) consists of 50 Rondels Bergamasques. It grew from Marsh's residency in the Hilliard Ensemble's summer school and culminates here as the fruits of a large scale project at York University, where the CDs were recorded 2005/2006.

"Roger Marsh has succeeded in (re)making Pierrot as a living resource with a tremendous staged production of Giraud's complete and enigmatic torrent of fantasy." ( Tempo )

These nightmarish poems, well ahead of their time, are sung by singers from many fields of music making, including the Hillard Ensemble, Ebor Singers, Dr Linda Hirst (Head of Vocal Faculty, Trinity College of Music, q.v. above), Red Byrd and Juice and several key individuals listed in the expansive documentation of the booklet. Most of the text is sung in French, interspersed by English narration by Joe Marsh representing Giraud. It has also been semi-staged in Denmark.

Peter Grahame Woolf