Birtwistle Orchestral Works
When Sir Harrison Birtwistle's opera Gawain was first performed at Covent Garden in 1991 there was some critical talk to the effect that the broad brush-strokes necessary for such a big house had meant the loss of that incisiveness and open-textured concision so highly valued in his earlier works.
This splendidly played and well-recorded disc can be used to put this judgement to the test.
In no sense is The Triumph of Time operatic, but its structure and material (which Birtwistle linked to the Bruegel engraving) is vividly dramatic, the sure-footed skill and economy of its gradual accumulation of tension and density still unsurpassed in Birtwistle's output. Since Boulez's BBC SO recording (Argo, 7/75) has been unavailable for so long, this triumphant return to the catalogue of a 1970s masterwork is cause for jubilation. Collins Classics should book Elgar Howarth and the Philharmonia to record Birtwistle's other, earlier orchestral compositions—