WGBH Radio WGBH Radio theclassicalstation.org

The NMC Songbook


Release Date: 03/31/2009 
Label:  Nmc   Catalog #: 150   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  David SawerLuke BedfordAnthony PowersGary Carpenter,   ... 
Performer:  Susan BickleyClaire BoothOwen GunnellBen Hulett,   ... 
Number of Discs: 4 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 5 Hours 22 Mins. 

In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

To mark its 20th Anniversary in 2009 NMC Recordings has commissioned The NMC Songbook. Nearly 100 composers, ranging from the country’s most highly regarded figures to the younger generation of emerging talents, have each written a song, loosely themed on ‘Britain’ and scored for single voice or duet and a range of accompanying instruments.

The songs have been set to text chosen by the composers and cover a vast array of subjects, from well-known poems by Blake and Byron through to a list of the Kings and Queens of England, extracts from a National Trust brochure, chants from the Leyton Orient terraces, a whisky recipe, and a colourful rant about road rage.

Recorded at Kings Place in the autumn of 2008 The NMC
Read more Songbook will be launched as a 4-CD box set in April simultaneously with the first public performances of the songs at Kings Place, London spread over four days of concerts and curated by composer and Executive Producer of NMC, Colin Matthews.

Composers involved include Julian Anderson, Harrison Birtwistle, Tansy Davies, Gavin Bryars, Gordon Crosse, Peter Maxwell Davies, James Dillon, Michael Finnissy, Alexander Goehr, Emily Hall, Jonathan Harvey, Robin Holloway, Simon Holt, Anna Meredith, Thea Musgrave, Anthony Payne, David Sawer, Howard Skempton, Errollyn Wallen, Judith Weir, Luke Bedford, John Woolrich and many more....

Singers include Elizabeth Atherton, Claire Booth, Ailish Tynan, Susan Bickley, Jean Rigby, Lore Lixenberg, James Bowman, Michael Chance and Daniel Norman, accompanied by Iain Burnside, Andrew Ball, Huw Watkins and Andrew Plant (piano), Jane Chapman (harpsichord), Lucy Wakeford (harp), Antonis Hatzinikolaou (guitar) and Owen Gunnell (percussion).

Reviews:

"This is the kind of release that repays investment time and time again; in years to come, when certain composers have faded, and certain others have emerged, The NMC Songbook will remain as a vital document of song composition at a particularly interesting point of development for British music, a point in which the songbook itself will have played no little part."

-- Stephen Graham, MusicalCriticism.com

"This extraordinary project confirms the robust health and endlessly varied landscape of Britain's new music. There is no other document anywhere that has given such a snapshot of an artistic community that, while comprised of a hundred different ways of expressing itself, is of one voice when it comes to creative energy."

-- John Adams

---------------------

REVIEW

This is a unique collection of songs commissioned to celebrate NMC’s 20th anniversary. An impressive body of work, the collection represents many of the UK’s most celebrated living composers, from young talents at the beginning of their careers such as Luke Bedford, Anna Meredith and Philip Neil Martin to established veterans such as Peter Maxwell Davies, Harrison Birtwistle and Colin Matthews. Unwrapping the discs has a sense of excitement about it too; the packaging is creative, brightly coloured and glossy, suggesting a certain life and energy to the British contemporary music scene.

The composers were asked to create a work of under three minutes duration, with an English text, for solo voice or duet with or without accompaniment of piano, harp, percussion, guitar or harpsichord. The durations themselves are interesting, ranging from around one minute to almost five minutes in one case. Instrumental interludes come in the form of a set of increasingly present Galliards by Thomas Morley, arranged by NMC founder member Colin Matthews.

With 110 short pieces in the collection, it is impossible to mention each one in the context of this review, although each has its merits and is worthy of mention. For reasons of appropriate brevity, however, I confine my comments to a few selected songs and leave the rest to be discovered by the listener. Perhaps most interesting from the whole collection is the way each composer chose to respond to the brief, giving a sense of their musical personalities and creative ideas. This itself is fascinating, and the richness of variety and talent working in composition in Britain today is something to get very excited about.

Disc 1 opens with a bold fanfare style trio for soprano, mezzo-soprano and tubular bells by David Sawer, which is performed with drama and intensity by Claire Booth, Susan Bickley and Owen Gunnell. Jonathan Cole’s tss-k-haa makes use of creative vocal sounds and stands out as a particularly interesting work. Careful examination of the liner-notes reveals that the high-pitched sound in this piece is in fact a balloon, played by the composer himself. There is a wonderful sense of humour and originality about this which made it one of my favourites. Nicola LeFanu’s The Bourne is hypnotically beautiful and is given a mesmerizing performance by Elizabeth Atherton and Lucy Wakeford. Nicholas Sackman’s contribution is strongly rhythmic with twisting melody lines brought to life by the rich tone of tenor Benjamin Hulett. Harrison Birtwistle is represented through an arrangement of This Silence before Light, while Joe Duddell’s Cease Sorrows Now is beautifully dark and weighty with a strong sense of emotion. Alison Bauld’s Shakespeare setting has a wonderful sense of drama, as does Philip Neil Martin’s enticing offering, the longest song on the first disc. I also enjoyed James MacMillan’s duet for two trebles and harp, with its purity of sound-world.

Gordon Crosse’s Dirge from Cymbeline provides a rich opening to Disc 2. Further highlights include Richard Causton’s refreshing English Encouragement of Art, a spectacular duo for female voices and percussion. Enjoyable and contrasting contributions come from Robert Saxton and Julian Anderson, while James Dillon’s Upon the Cloudy Night for counter-tenor and piano is an impressive feat of performance by Andrew Watts and Andrew Ball, with complex piano textures and microtonal vocal writing. Peter Maxwell Davies’ song is a delightfully bi-tonal duo for treble and piano, with a simple but haunting vocal line heard over a polyphonic piano part. Tarik O’Regan makes effective use of a trio of counter-tenor, tenor and harp with some haunting harmonies and flowing melody lines. A Cause for Wonder by Peter Wiegold is full of drama and Passion. It is given a splendid performance by Andrew Watts and Iain Burnside. Roderick Williams performs his own work, and the disc ends with the wonderfully still and simple haiku by Blaar Kindsdottir.

David Matthews’ Plovers Peak is a beautifully evocative work which captures attention. A work by Jeremy Dale Roberts follows on Disc 3, which has a wonderfully angular vocal line heard against a haunting and simple piano part. With a text by Ursula Vaughan Williams, this is probably one of my favourites from the whole collection. On this disc I also enjoyed songs by Diana Burrell, John Casken and Daniel Basford. Huw Watkins’ Proud Maisie stands out and demands attention from its dramatic opening bars. This is clearly a well-crafted and imaginative piece of writing which ends almost as abruptly as it begins. The performance, by Claire Booth with the composer at the piano, is also excellent, making this another entry into my favourites list. Michael Berkeley’s homage to Poulenc is enjoyable and atmospheric, while Roger Marsh’s Lullaby is a wonderfully understated and expressive work with gentle percussion accompaniment. Stephen Montague’s turbulent The Poison Tree is enormously enjoyable, with its dark rumblings and strong rhythms. A Dangerous Crossing by Edwin Roxburgh is another highly successful composition, with a shimmering piano accompaniment and soaring soprano melody. Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Bellamy brings the disc to an enjoyable and jaunty close.

The final disc of the set opens with a strong contribution from Jonathan Harvey. Ah! Sun-flower is a duo for soprano and piano which is a setting of a William Blake text. Stuart MacRae’s piece sets a medieval text for counter-tenor with a sparse guitar accompaniment. This is an excellent work which creates an evocative atmosphere. By stark contrast, Gerald Barry’s The Importance of Being Earnest is a humorous setting of a section of Oscar Wilde’s text, sung by the composer and depicting two different characters as they hold a conversation. This is extremely entertaining and a welcome break from the seriousness of some of the other works. Martin Butler and Colin Matthews provide warm and expressive pieces, while Gavin Bryar’s captivating song is performed wonderfully by Andrew Kennedy and Lucy Wakeford. Claudia Molitor’s My Favourite Sound uses humming voices over an electronic backing track which includes breathing and popping sounds. Geoffrey Poole’s work is in the style of a traditional folksong, but with a wonderfully comical text providing a wry commentary on modern cultural references. The performance by baritone David Stout is impressive, and this is a fantastic contribution to the disc. Simon Bainbridge’s duo for mezzo-soprano and counter-tenor is an effective setting of Shakespeare’s most famous Sonnet. Further enjoyable songs come from Anthony Payne, Morgan Hayes and Ben Foskett.

The collection was recorded at Kings Place prior to its public opening, and these discs are admirable testimony to the acoustics of the new venue. The singing and playing is of a consistently high standard. This is a stunning anthology and NMC deserves to be justly proud of both this celebratory collection and its success over the past 20 years in bringing new music to the public. Congratulations to the Holst Foundation and all that have been involved in NMC’s success.

-- Carla Rees, MusicWeb International
Read less

Works on This Recording

1. The Source by David Sawer
Performer:  Susan Bickley (Mezzo Soprano), Claire Booth (Soprano), Owen Gunnell (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
2. Upon St George's Hill by Luke Bedford
Performer:  Ben Hulett (Tenor), Antonis Hatzinikolaou (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
3. Shining Plain by Anthony Powers
Performer:  Andrew Kennedy (Tenor), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
4. Interlude by Gary Carpenter
Performer:  Susan Bickley (Mezzo Soprano), Jane Chapman (Harpsichord)
Period: 20th Century 
5. tss-k-haa by Jonathan Cole
Performer:  Roderick Williams (Baritone)
Period: 20th Century 
6. Those Fenny Bells by Anthony Gilbert
Performer:  Michael Chance (Countertenor), Loré Lixenberg (Mezzo Soprano), Owen Gunnell (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
7. The sun's great eye by Philip Cashian
Performer:  David Stout (Baritone), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
8. The Bourne by Nicola LeFanu
Performer:  Elizabeth Atherton (Soprano), Lucy Wakeford (Harp)
Period: 20th Century 
9. Maiden in the moor by Nicholas Sackman
Performer:  Ben Hulett (Tenor), Owen Gunnell (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
10. Houses and Gardens in the Heart of England by John White
Performer:  Iain Burnside (Piano), Ailish Tynan (Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
11. This Silence before Light by Harrison Birtwistle
Performer:  Claire Booth (Soprano), Huw Watkins (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
Notes: Arranged: Colin Matthews 
12. Blist's Hill by Julian Philips
Performer:  Stephan Loges (Baritone), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
13. Fin like a Flower by anna Meredith
Performer:  Lucy Wakeford (Harp), Michael Chance (Countertenor)
Period: 20th Century 
14. Cease Sorrows Now by Joe Duddell
Performer:  George Mosley (Baritone), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
15. Titania's Song by Alison Bauld
Performer:  Elizabeth Atherton (Soprano), Andrew Ball (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
16. Swift's Epitaph by Donnacha Dennehy
Performer:  Andrew [ctr tenor] Watts (Countertenor), Owen Gunnell (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
17. Nobody Comes by Helen Grime
Performer:  Huw Watkins (Piano), Jean Rigby (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
18. A Cat by John McCabe
Performer:  Loré Lixenberg (Mezzo Soprano), Antonis Hatzinikolaou (Guitar)
Period: 20th Century 
19. Galliard by Thomas Morley
Performer:  Andrew Ball (Piano), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
Notes:  Arranged: Colin Matthews 
20. Outside Fort Tregantle by Michael Finnissy
Performer:  Richard Jackson (Baritone), Michael Finnissy (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
21. Blaze of Noon by Phillip Neil Martin
Performer:  Claire Booth (Soprano), Andrew Ball (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
22. Bands by Joe Cutler
Performer:  Andrew Ball (Piano), Daniel Norman (Tenor)
Period: 20th Century 
23. Mouth of the Dumb by James MacMillan
Performer:  Andrew Swait (Treble), Lucy Wakeford (Harp), Sam Harris (Treble)
Period: 20th Century 
24. Stanzas 1814 by Jonathan Powell
Performer:  Loré Lixenberg (Mezzo Soprano), Jonathan Powell (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
25. Galliard by Thomas Morley
Performer:  Jane Chapman (Harpsichord), Antonis Hatzinikolaou (Guitar), Lucy Wakeford (Harp),
Owen Gunnell (Marimba)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
Notes: Arranged: Colin Matthews  
26. Easter by Hugh Wood
Performer:  Andrew Kennedy (Tenor), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
27. Dirge from Cymbeline by Gordon Crosse
Performer:  David Stout (Baritone), Lucy Wakeford (Harp)
Period: 20th Century 
28. A curious thirsty fly by David Horne
Performer:  Andrew Ball (Piano), Daniel Norman (Tenor)
29. Out of Town by Rachel Leach
Performer:  Iain Burnside (Piano), Ailish Tynan (Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
30. English Encouragement of Art by Richard Causton
Performer:  Susan Bickley (Mezzo Soprano), Claire Booth (Soprano), Owen Gunnell (Percussion)
Period: 20th Century 
31. A Swallow by David Blake
Performer:  Huw Watkins (Piano), Jean Rigby (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
32. The beach in winter: Scratby by Robert Saxton
Performer:  Stephan Loges (Baritone), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
33. Lucretius by Julian Anderson
Performer:  Owen Gunnell (Percussion), Claire Booth (Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
34. Upon the cloudy night by James Dillon
Performer:  Andrew [ctr tenor] Watts (Countertenor), Andrew Ball (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
35. Easter Zunday by Sadie Harrison
Performer:  Ben Hulett (Tenor), Andrew Ball (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
36. Labyrinth to Light by Peter Maxwell Davies
Performer:  Andrew Swait (Treble), Andrew Plant (Piano)
37. With my Whip by Edward Rushton
Performer:  George Mosley (Baritone), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
38. Raju Raghuvanshi is a Ghost by Simon Holt
Performer:  Omar Ebrahim (Baritone)
39. A Winter's Morning by Thea Musgrave
Performer:  Iain Burnside (Piano), Ailish Tynan (Soprano)
40. Galliard by Thomas Morley
Performer:  Jane Chapman (Harpsichord), Antonis Hatzinikolaou (Guitar), Lucy Wakeford (Harp),
Owen Gunnell (Marimba)
Period: Renaissance 
Written: England 
Notes: Arranged: Colin Matthews  
41. Darkness Visible by Tarik O'Regan
Performer:  Ben Hulett (Tenor), Andrew [ctr tenor] Watts (Countertenor), Lucy Wakeford (Harp)
Period: 20th Century 
42. A Simple Neo-Georgian Summer by Emily Hall
Performer:  Stephan Loges (Baritone), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
43. A Cause for Wonder by Peter Wiegold
Performer:  Andrew [ctr tenor] Watts (Countertenor), Iain Burnside (Piano)
44. Wild Clematis in Winter by Emily Howard
Performer:  Huw Watkins (Piano), Jean Rigby (Mezzo Soprano)
45. Poet and Star by Bayan Northcott
Performer:  Claire Booth (Soprano), Daniel Norman (Tenor), Andrew Ball (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
46. Vocalise "Loch Lurgainn in the Sunshine" by Rupert Bawden
Performer:  Huw Watkins (Piano), Jean Rigby (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: 20th Century 
47. A Coat by Roderick Williams
Performer:  Roderick Williams (Baritone), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 
48. Know Thy Kings and Queens by Julian Grant
Performer:  Susan Bickley (Mezzo Soprano), Iain Burnside (Piano)
Period: 20th Century 

Customer Reviews

Be the first to review this title
Review This Title
Review This Title Share on Facebook