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Dazzling Works

Contemporary music from the
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra,
recommended by

RCO Live    RCO 08003

Horizon 1 - Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. © 2008 Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest

The Royal Concertgebouw's admirably enterprising and exciting venture, on its own label, introduces four dazzling works, each substantial and each composed over the last two years. These are sounds fresh from the workshop, and played with commitment and energy by an orchestra we may perhaps associate more with Bruckner, Mahler, Strauss and Stravinsky than with monumental novelty. Yet here there is little to fear, for the RCO make these new pieces as exhilarating as their older and well travelled repertoire. Under the direction of Markus Stenz, whose persuasive command has inevitably played an enormous part in this venture, these four new works explore fresh orchestral textures and styles which range from the delicate abstraction of a huge percussion department to the influences of jazz, rock and the unashamed world of light music.

Moritz Eggert was born in 1965 in Heidelberg, studied in Frankfurt and later in London at the Guildhall School with Robert Saxton. His output is huge, including seven operas, and he has appeared widely as a pianist and accompanist. His interest in jazz is clearly evident in his piece Number 9 VI: a bigger splash, based on a painting by David Hockney called A Bigger Splash -- the splash itself 'frozen in time'.

Listen -- Moritz Eggert: Number 9 VI: a bigger splash
(track 1, 0:30-1:50) © 2008 Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest

London born Colin Matthews is now 62 and brings a colourful orchestral skill to his large scale Turning Point, a piece that in parts recalls the haunting world of Mahler's Tenth Symphony, whilst being underpinned by the English sixteenth century in which he also has great interest. His music has breadth, boldness and is written with consummate skill, clearly heard and structurally sound.

Listen -- Colin Matthews: Turning Point
(track 2, 15:00-16:40) © 2008 Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest

Detlev Glanert, born in 1960 and a protégé of Henze, gives his Theatrum Bestiarum a shock opening and then, through colourful transformations and with rhythmic vitality drives the piece through an extravagant sound world not too far from a competent film score, to which the entry of the organ becomes a climactic event.

Listen -- Detlev Glanert: Theatrum Bestiarum
(track 7, 6:24-7:50) © 2008 Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest

Theo Verbeij's LIED for trombone and orchestra seems, in fact, to be a succession of four 'songs' in which the soloist Jörgen van Rijen, the orchestra's principal trombone player and the composer's fellow Dutchman, makes his instrument sing with an overall gentleness and expressiveness that denies any popular impression of its bombast personality. Verbeij, who was born in 1959, handles the orchestra with deftness. In the last 'song' there is no doubt a touch of Stravinsky behind the agile trombone.

Listen -- Theo Verbeij: 4th movement -- crotchet=132 (LIED)
(track 6, 0:50-1:39) © 2008 Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest

The CD has the subtitle: new sound spaces -- an orchestra expands its horizons. With the help of four imaginative and skilful composers, it certainly does.

Copyright © 22 January 2009 Patric Standford, Wakefield UK




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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular series of shorter CD reviews