Release Date: 21 April 2017
Perfectly crafted, deceptively simplistic and distinctively individual, Howard Skempton's compositions have a soundworld all of their own. This new full-length album on NMC perfectly displays his experimental, yet sonorous and tonal music.
Skempton takes on Coleridge's poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and brings it to life, using just solo voice (baritone) and small chamber ensemble. The result is a stunning, dark and hypnotic journey led by the almost constant, magnetic presence of Roderick Williams, for whose voice and dramatic capabilities the piece was conceived.
Only the Sound Remains takes its name from the opening line of The Mill-Water by English poet Edward Thomas. The piece is an evocation of loss and decay, where textures, and melodies mysteriously recur, while others simply fade beautifully out of aural reach. It is written for sixteen players, including solo viola.
This is a stunning premiere recording of two recent works by one of Britain's finest living composers.
Roderick Williams baritone
Christopher Yates viola
Birmingham Contemporary Music Group
Martyn Brabbins conductor
GRAMOPHONE EDITOR'S CHOICE JUNE 2017
PRESTO CLASSICAL TOP 100 RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR 2017
SPOTIFY TOP 100 CLASSICAL RECORDINGS OF THE YEAR 2017
'[Skempton's] deceptively simple setting of Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ... is hypnotically effective' The Times
‘Hugely evocative … Williams is, as ever, the most spellbinding of story-tellers’ Presto Classical
'Haunting and gripping' BBC Radio 3 'Record Review'
‘Superbly recorded and informatively annotated, this is a valuable addition to Skempton’s expanding discography and welcome acknowledgement of his significance in his 70th year.’ Gramophone
'The typical Skempton traits - clarity, deceptive simplicity and apparently familiar yet fresh and capricious language are all here, sensitively conveyed by Birmingham Contemporary Music Group' BBC Music Magazine ★★★★★
‘hypnotic … this is a great album’ American Record Guide
'If you buy just one disc of contemporary music this year, get this one' The Arts Desk
‘Howard Skempton’s music doesn’t wait to be admired, it engages actively in communication.’ The Wire
‘These two works are not to be missed, and I can’t conceive of better performances than these. Skempton has raised the bar for himself.’ Fanfare
‘Roderick Williams […] delivers the vocal part with sensitivity, clarity, intelligence and unfailingly good diction.’ Opera News
‘Sometimes it’s hypnotic, sometimes playful and with continual surprises.’ OperaRamblings
The two works on this album were commissioned by Maurice and Sheila Millward. NMC would like to thank them for generously supporting this recording.
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner was recorded on 25 November 2016 at All Saints, Tooting, London. Only the Sound Remains was recorded on 27 November 2016 at CBSO Centre, Birmingham.
DAVID LEFEBER Recording Engineer & Producer
SUSANNE STANZELEIT Digital Editing
DAVID LEFEBER Mastering