Psappha Commissions

Psappha Commissions

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Release Date: 25th March 2022

Psappha, the North West’s only stand-alone professional contemporary classical music ensemble, celebrates its 30th anniversary with a new album of world-premiere recordings. Commissions features seven works commissioned and first performed by Psappha over the last 12 years – and collectively, they show the breadth of the group’s repertoire, the scope of its ambition and the esteem in which it is held by just seven of the hundreds of composers with whom it has worked since it was founded in 1991.

Mark-Anthony Turnage, Psappha’s Patron since 2018, contributes a major new work written for jazz singer Ian Shaw and a 16-strong ensemble – Black Milk, a potent and powerful setting of Paul Celan’s post-war poem ‘Todesfuge’ (‘Death Fugue’). John Casken, a long time associate, is represented by Winter Reels, a three-movement work inspired by landscapes in winter and written for Psappha’s core group of six musicians (violin, cello, flute, clarinet, piano and percussion).

Commissions also features world-premiere recordings by four of the UK’s brightest young talents. Tom Coult, the BBC Philharmonic’s Composer in Association, contributes Two Games and a Nocturne – first playful, then sombre. Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade’s Patdeep Studies, written for sitarist Jasdeep Singh Degun, is a fascinating exploration of the traditional Hindustānī rāg Patdeep. Tom Harrold describes his exhilarating Dark Dance as a ‘perverse viola concertino’, written for violist Heather Wallington. And George Stevenson takes his cues for the restless Trees Made of Air from a quote by theoretical physicist Richard Feynman.

Purchasers also get access to a free download of a seventh Psappha commission: Songs of the World, a cycle by Alissa Firsova that sets words by Viennese poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Download here.


1-3. John Casken Winter Reels
I. a warming dance
II. a cold song
III. a spirited gathering
4-8. Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade Patdeep Studies
I. A study in the elements of ālāp: the unveiling of the rāg pathway
II. A study in the elements of jor
III. A study in the elements of gat composition
IV. A free study in tāns
V. A study in the elements of ālāp: the shadowing of the rāg pathway
9. Tom Harrold Dark Dance
10. Mark-Anthony Turnage Black Milk
11-13. Tom Coult Two Games and a Nocturne
Game I – Fidgety, skittish
Game II – Meccanico ma accelerando
Nocturne – Drifting, malleable
14. George Stevenson Trees Made of Air






“Among the highlights are Mark-Anthony Turnage's unsettling Black Milk (a setting of Paul Celan's Todesfuge, where jazz singer Ian Shaw's grainy vocals are appropriately curdling) and Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade’s mesmerising, virtuosic sitar concerto Patdeep Studies. The pearl, though, is Alissa Firsova's Songs of the World, shot through with whispers of Korngold and Berg, and sung with beguiling, Barbara Hannigan-ish sensuality by soprano Daisy Brown” Presto

"No two are the same and part of the joy in this selection is seeing how far-ranging the music can be, when composers are restricted in the scale of resources they can use." Financial Times

"Performances throughout are impressive, and NMC’s sound has depth and detail." The Arts Desk

"The six works included (from a choice of hundreds) celebrate old and new associations." The Scotsman 

"The performances lack nothing in commitment or conviction abetted by excellent sound and detailed annotations" Gramophone

"A remarkable disc that demands - and rewards -  active listening. Every piece is a gem in its own right." Classical Explorer

"The performances - captured during concerts across 2021 - are top notch, the music inhabited and communicated with compelling understanding and captivating aplomb." BBC Music Magazine

"The selections provide a diverse array of styles, displaying the confidence with which Psappha assays musical challenges." Sequenza21

"Connecting this assortment of pieces, the oldest of which was composed 13 years ago—one of Psappha’s many qualities is to champion the recent as much as the brand-new—is the bracing airiness integral to Psappha’s sound." VAN Magazine


NINFEA CRUTTWELL-READE  (4-8) , MATTHEW BENNETT Session Producers (1-3, 9, 11-14),
TIM WILLIAMS Executive Producer

Release Date: 25th March 2022
Cat No.: PSA1008