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Davies: Neon; Macrae: Interact / Porcelijn, Gruber, Wallace

Davies / Macrae / Lsf / Porcelijn / Gruber
Release Date: 01/30/2007 
Label:  London Sinfonietta   Catalog #: 12006  
Composer:  Tansy DaviesStuart MacRae
Performer:  John Wallace
Conductor:  David PorcelijnHeinz Karl "Nali" Gruber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Sinfonietta
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

T. DAVIES _neon. MACRAE Interact 1 David Porcelijn, cond; H. K. Gruber, cond; 1 John Wallace (tpt); 1 London Sinfonietta LONDON SINFONIETTA 1-2006 (33: 28)

The London Sinfonietta has become the latest UK-based ensemble to issue discs on its own label, following in the Read more footsteps of both the London Symphony and the London Philharmonic. Given the Sinfonietta’s ever-questing programming and its unstinting support of new British compositional talent, this is something that is to be applauded. The short playing time of this disc is, I would suggest, offset by the difficult but rewarding nature of the scores it presents.

Tansy Davies has studied with two British luminaries, Simon Bainbridge and Simon Holt. Her music includes elements of the contemporary music scene and typically marries them to influences from experimental rock. The work on the present disc, neon (2004), displays a typical Davies device—looping—in conjunction with a construction that is based on the idea of boxes, each of which contains a pattern. The way in which the various boxes can be fitted together in a variety of ways suggests the controlled aleatorism of Lutos?awaski as a further influence. Jazz, too, makes its presence felt, although what lingers in the memory is perhaps Davies’s infectious sense of humor. The witty use of percussion seems to be a purely logical extension of the engaging rhythmic basis to the piece.

The performance clearly benefits from the live provenance (it was taken down at London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall, part of the South Bank Centre). The audience is remarkably silent, perhaps, as so often at Sinfonietta events, completely enrapt. The Sinfonietta’s expertise in cutting-edge contemporary music is the stuff of legend (at least here in the UK) and the way it relishes Davies’s challenges reflects the group’s unflagging enthusiasm.

The presence of the superb trumpeter John Wallace is cause for celebration enough in Stuart MacRae’s Interact of 2003. MacRae, born in Inverness, Scotland, has also studied with Bainbridge. Other teachers include Robert Saxton and the still cruelly underrated Sohrab Uduman. (How about a disc of Uduman’s powerful music, someone?) A period of composer-in-association with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra presumably offered MacRae an opportunity to hone the orchestrational skills so strongly on display in Interact.

Unfortunately, the specific use of performance space (MacRae has brass soloists from the ensemble change position onstage) loses some of its immediacy on transfer to disc. Nevertheless, MacRae’s writing comes across as confident and assured. He pulls no punches in his demands on his soloist(s), yet Wallace and his colleagues show little sense of strain. The idea of the first movement is that of a game; the second is much slower and much more meditative. There is, curiously, no track point for the second movement. MacRae describes the second section as a succession of friezes, each providing a different background to the ongoing melodic thread.

Bravo to the London Sinfonietta for their continued support of such strong talents. May there be many more discs like this ilk to come!

FANFARE: Colin Clarke
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Works on This Recording

Neon by Tansy Davies
Conductor:  David Porcelijn
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Sinfonietta
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2004 
Venue:  Live Queen Elizabeth Hall, London 
Interact by Stuart MacRae
Performer:  John Wallace (Trumpet)
Conductor:  Heinz Karl "Nali" Gruber
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Sinfonietta
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 2003 

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