This fourth, full-length album of music by multi award-winning composer Simon Holt on NMC showcases his highly narrative orchestral compositions. His violin concerto witness to a snow miracle – here performed by the prodigiously talented Chloë Hanslip – depicts the story of the life, and particularly gruesome death, of St Eulalia of Merida. From the initial, frenzied cadenza in the solo violin we get a sense of the torment and horror the saint suffered at the hands of the Romans: her flesh torn with hooks, flames applied to the wounds, and her body buried in hot coals. A blanket of snow fell on her ashes, at which point she was declared a saint.
Holt's other award-winning concerto on this album is a much more upbeat and quirky affair. Written for and performed on this recording by one of the world's finest percussionists, Colin Currie, a table of noises introduces us to Holt's taxidermist great uncle Ashworth, a kind of maverick scientist-cum-collector. Currie says "this percussion concerto exuberantly tears up the manual on how to approach the medium and I am thrilled with the idiosyncratic, adventurous results". The soloist is seated on a cajon (a box-shaped instrument often used in flamenco), and apart from the xylophone and glockenspiel, all the other instruments are laid out on a table in front of the soloist; hence the title. Each brief movement has a descriptive title (eg. a drawer full of eyes (discovered by Holt’s mother in Ash’s bedroom tallboy and Skennin’ Mary (a neighbour with a glass eye that spun when she became angry) and is linked by five “ghost” orchestral interludes.
The short, dazzling, orchestral work St Vitus in the kettle was commissioned by BBC National Orchestra of Wales during Holt's tenure as Composer-in-Association (2008-2014). The grisly end for this saint was a cauldron of boiling hot lead!
Chloë Hanslip violin
Colin Currie percussion
Nicholas Collon conductor
THE GUARDIAN TOP 10 CLASSICAL ALBUMS OF 2017
'One of Simon Holt's finest achievements to date ... Unreservedly recommended' The Guardian ★★★★★
‘Like good poetry, it reveals itself in quiet, unhurried contemplation’ Classical Iconoclast
'Affectionate, quick-witted [and] sometimes haunting' Financial Times
‘Witness to a Snow Miracle is for my money the greatest violin concerto of the past 30 years’ The Telegraph
'Imagine The Sorcerer's Apprentice given a radical overhaul by Xenakis, factor in a healthy measure of Lancastrian humour, and you'll be somewhere in the vicinity of Holt's workshop.' The Wire
‘Full of eccentric wit and humor’ Records International
With thanks to The Hinrichsen Foundation for supporting NMC’s Hallé Series through its New Initiatives programme.
NMC is grateful for the support of the Hallé and the RVW Trust in making this recording.
a table of noises and St Vitus in the kettle were recorded on 29 July 2014; witness to a snow miracle was recorded on 9 November 2015. All at Hallé St Peter’s, Ancoats, Manchester
Recording Engineer & Producer: DAVID LEFEBER
(P) 2017 NMC Recordings Ltd
© 2017 NMC Recordings Ltd
Catalogue number: NMC D218
Release Date: 24 March 2017