Playlist: Championing the new – NMC Recordings

Richard Whitehouse Tue 15th August 2017

Since its founding by Colin Matthews in 1988, NMC Recordings has played a pivotal role in disseminating new British music. Here’s a selection from its most significant recent releases. From the 1995 premiere of The Persistence of Memory, Richard Causton was clearly a composer of promise. This cross-section takes in that scintillating piece, together with the ominous (and prescient) Millennium Scenes and the deftly evocative Chamber Symphony. Few younger composers have evolved an overtly modernist idiom with the audible conviction of Helen Grime. This recording includes pieces written for the Hallé and Mark Elder such as Virga and Near Midnight, together with the Clarinet Concerto (Lynsey Marsh) and several ensemble works that amply confirm her prowess when writing for chamber as well as orchestral forces. Best known for his concertos and string quartets, Hugh Wood is also a distinguished writer of songs. The four song-cycles gathered here underline his masterly word-setting across a range of poets in Lawrence Durrell, Robert Graves, DH Lawrence and Laurie Lee; and rendered by a distinguished roster of singers in Claire McCaldin, James Gilchrist and Roderick Williams. Testament to the resourcefulness of Charlotte Bray is the diversity of pieces featured here: whether composing for solo piano (Oneirei), violin and ensemble (Caught in Treetops) or large orchestra (At the Speed of Stillness), these results confirm her imaginative response to a range of inspirations, together with the fastidiousness of her ear for sonority and texture. Never afraid to imagine past genres from an arresting new perspective, Harrison Birtwistle has recreated the Baroque cantata in Angel Fighter; its biblical antecedents rendered in music visceral and provocative by turns. Committed performances from long-term associates, the London Sinfonietta and David Atherton. Active since the beginning as producer (executive or otherwise), Colin Matthews also features as composer on a recent 70th-birthday tribute featuring concertos for violin and (second) for cello, along with the darkly Mahlerian Cortège. Artists include Oliver Knussen and the BBC Symphony Orchestra; themselves salient contributors to the NMC project from the outset. 

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