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The Duets for Storab commemorate a Neolithic ruler of Raasay in
the Hebrides, where Birtwistle lived for a while. As a Shetlander, I have
always considered the Hebrides comparatively lush and luxurious. In Storab's
day it seems not to have been so, and Birtwistle's 'urlar', or original
datum for the two flutes, develops at once into a 'Stark pastoral' that
lives up to its title and suggests a minimum of safe grazing for the sheep.
My favourite among the six duets is 'From the church of lies', a subject
that could cheerfully inspire a whole library of CDs rather than a piece
lasting just over a minute [listen -- track 8, 0:02-1:20].
The Five Distances of 1992 balance Refrains and Choruses that
again pits the horn against the rest of the team, beginning indeed with
a horn ostinato. It is remarkable how consistent has been Birtwistle's idiom
over this 35-year period [listen -- track 19, 0:03-1:03].
Much of this music, one suspects, had its origin as a scrap or chip that
did not find a place in a major work. The liner notes include an interview
between Birtwistle and Colin Anderson in which the composer describes such
music as 'relaxation. I pick up from one composition things that are not
fully realised and put them in another piece, but you would never be able
to find them'. Such 'relaxation' can make a stimulating introduction to
Sir Harrison's tonal explorations.
Copyright © 20 February 2002
Robert Anderson, London, UK
CD INFORMATION - DEUX-ELLES DXL1019
PURCHASE THIS DISC FROM CROTCHET
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