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Thea Musgrave: Turbulent Landscapes / Milne, Glennie

Musgrave / Glennie / Milne / Bbc Sym Orch / Vnaska
Release Date: 07/28/2009 
Label:  Nmc   Catalog #: 153  
Composer:  Thea Musgrave
Performer:  Lisa MilneNicholas DanielEvelyn Glennie
Conductor:  Osmo VänskäJiří Bělohlávek
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo1 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

MUSGRAVE Turbulent Landscapes. 1 Songs of a Winter’s Evening. 2 Two’s Company 3 Osmo Vänskä, cond; 1,2 Lisa Milne (sop); 2 Ji?í B?lohlávek, cond; 3 Evelyn Glennie (perc); 3 Nicholas Daniel Read more (ob); 3 BBC SO; 1,3 BBC Scottish SO 2 NMC 153 (69:01 Text and Translation) Live: London 7/20/2005; 1 8/2/1998; 2 8/31/2007 3

Thea Musgrave (b. 1928) is a Scottish composer who’s lived the past several decades in the U.S., though she remains thoroughly trans-Atlantic in her career and perspective. She’s been particularly successful in that very difficult field of contemporary opera (for example, her Mary Queen of Scots comes close to being a hit—at the very least a piece that is repeatedly revived). And not too surprisingly, her compositional voice is extremely adept with the dramatic and the pictorial. This collection shows off those strengths.

Turbulent Landscapes (2003) is a suite of six pieces, each based on a different painting by J. M. W. Turner. Since the painter is one of my favorites, I was favorably disposed to this piece before I heard a note. The good news is that the music not only fulfills its programmatic mandate, but also evokes an identifiable world of its own. It’s rich in detail and arabesque; it throbs, pulsates, and swirls like natural phenomena, in particular fluid ones; and it’s masterfully orchestrated, both in its washes of sound and florid writing for soloists.

The Songs of a Winter’s Evening (1995) is a setting of seven poems by Robert Burns. Lisa Milne sings them ravishingly. Musgrave has a gift to write music that evokes earlier styles without copying the technique. She writes that Burns’s own melodies are embedded in the music, and one feels the source but also the hand of the composer, a creative interpreter of the original.

Two’s Company (2005) is a double concerto for the unlikely duo of oboe and percussion. Musgrave writes about a number of theatrical elements that involve placement and movement of the soloists, gestures that clarify the relationship of their characters, but which we as CD listeners can’t see. The music still has a satisfying flow and arc, and the percussion writing doesn’t take a kitchen-sink approach; such restraint is appreciated and makes the music that much more effective.

This is not groundbreaking music, but it’s still very much of our time. It’s humanist and poetic, and the product of a composer at the top of her game. The performances are excellent; these are live concert recordings, and you’ll have to deal with a little bit of audience noise, but it’s a distraction worth weathering to experience Musgrave’s art.

FANFARE: Robert Carl
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Works on This Recording

Turbulent Landscapes by Thea Musgrave
Conductor:  Osmo Vänskä
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Songs for a Winter’s Evening by Thea Musgrave
Performer:  Lisa Milne (Soprano)
Conductor:  Osmo Vänskä
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Two’s Company by Thea Musgrave
Performer:  Nicholas Daniel (Oboe), Evelyn Glennie (Percussion)
Conductor:  Jiří Bělohlávek
Orchestra/Ensemble:  BBC Symphony Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 

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