This collection of premiere recordings of Sir Harrison Birtwistle's orchestral works spans a period of ten years, from 1994-2004.
The works move away from the composer's forceful and monolithic grandeur, of which he has become associated, and have a more reflective, otherworldly and subtle sound, exploring the world of melancholy. The Shadow of Night is a slow nocturne, exploring the world of melancholy, inspired by the composer’s life-long fascination with Dürer's engraving Melencolia I, and Night's Black Bird - commissioned by the Roche Foundation - continues with the same reflective musical imagery. The Cry of Anubis, part tuba concerto, part tone poem, grew out of Birtwistle's fascination with Anubis, the jackal-headed god of the necropolis in Egyptian mythology who played an important part in Birtwistle’s surreal opera The Second Mrs Kong (1993-94).
This is the Hallé's first recording for NMC.
Owen Slade tuba
Ryan Wigglesworth conductor
BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE AWARD WINNER 2012 - PREMIERE RECORDING
GRAMOPHONE AWARD WINNER 2011 - CONTEMPORARY CATEGORY
THE SUNDAY TIMES TOP 100 ALBUMS OF 2011
TIME OUT NEW YORK NO.1 BEST CLASSICAL ALBUM OF 2011
'Together [Night's Black Bird and The Shadow of Night] make a perfectly balanced pair of movements; played independently they are entirely self-sufficient. Ryan Wigglesworth's performances with the Hallé are quite superb, with the intricacies of Birtwistle's instrumental writing always perfectly clear.' ★★★★★ The Guardian
'The orchestral canvases Night's Black Bird and The Shadow of Night pass through corrosive moments, yet both remain dominated by an affecting melancholy, lyrical but with a bittersweet tinge. It's as though Birtwistle, mellowing as he approached 70, had belatedly discovered his inner Elgar. ... The tuba seems the perfect instrument for Birtwistle ... Owen Slade paints a wonderfully compelling picture of tenebrous rituals deep underground.' ★★★★★ The Times
'No one does deep, dark, elemental brooding quite as profoundly and convincingly as Harrison Birtwistle ... an invaluable disc' The New York Times
'In the pair of orchestral works from 2004-05 recorded here, Sir Harrison Birtwistle has used a melodic fragment from Dowland's "In Darkness Let Me Dwell" as the pretext for very un-Britten-like explorations of the darker side of human experience...Yet Birtwistle's expressionistic grandeur is the perfect complement to Britten's conflicted restraint, and no less persuasive as an act of homage to a revered precursor' Gramophone
'These three relatively recent works could be by nobody else, yet there is manifest development...The Cry of Anubis is a perfectly plausible tuba concerto, with a superb soloist in Slade. Wigglesworth admirably brings out key detail from fiendishly complex scores' The Sunday Times
'The performances are stunning, the members of the Hallé playing with superb address and conviction, guided by the deeply sympathetic Ryan Wigglesworth ... a distinguished and valuable release that is recommended without reservation' ClassicalSource.com
'Birtwistle once described Stockhausen as an 'eagle of modernism', and that's now his own commanding position ... passages in the almost-melodic Night's Black Bird approach Bartok in their nocturnal beauty.' Wire Magazine
'This performance does ample justice to the music's sometimes aggressive but more often wistful melancholy ... A disc worth acquiring by Birtwistle sceptics and a mandatory purchase for admirers.' International Record Review
'Birtwistle may be a musical bogeyman for some, but these are among the most powerful orchestral pieces of recent years ..... These are grim but beautiful nocturnes, full of poignant menace, and Ryan Wigglesworth and the Halle give performances of amazing concentration, accuracy and passion, aided by recorded sound of a matching depth and clarity ... Overall an essential release. ' BBC Music Magazine
'The Halle and Ryan Wigglesworth do a cracking job with each of these magnificant but demanding scores.' musicweb-international.com
This recording is made possible in part by Roche, who also commissioned the composition of Night's Black Bird by Sir Harrison Birtwistle in 2003.
The works on this disc were recorded on 17-19 July 2010 in Studio 7, BBC Manchester.
Producer ANDREW KEENER
Recording Engineer SIMON EADON
Assistant Sound Engineer DAVE ROWELL
Digital Editing & Mastering DAVID LEFEBER
Catalogue number: NMC D156
Release Date: 16 May 2011