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Harrison Birtwistle: Night's Black Bird

Owen Slade, tuba
The Hallé / Ryan Wigglesworth

1 Night’s Black Bird (14’04)
2 The Shadow of Night (28’15)
3 The Cry of Anubis (13’24)

NMC D156

This recording of later orchestral works (1994-2004) by Harrison Birtwistle promises to be one of the most important in the NMC catalogue.

The music is magnificent, and so are its performances and recording.

But the presentation leaves much to be desired.

There are black-on-white and white-on-black texts by the conductor, Stephen Pruslin and Bayan Northcott, all in decent large print, but the latter's two-column take on The Cry of Anubis is singularly unhelpful. With a spare booklet column on p.15, why could not he (or someone else?) have put in play-timings of the chief 'landmarks' in mins/secs to help listeners know where they are, whilst trying to follow his description of the piece?

That is a common lack, and one so easily made good...

But the music needs to be digested, especially by those of us who haven't heard/don't know those pieces. Opportunities to do so in live concerts (in London, anyway) are rare, making this superb disc an essential purchase.

Peter Grahame Woolf