GREENWOOD Water MOZART Eine kleine Nachtmusik
ABC’s press release puts it neatly on the line: ‘The Australian Chamber Orchestra and ABC Classics present the first Australian-produced classical vinyl for two decades, featuring the premiere recording of Water by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood.’ This is a project clearly conceived for two-sided vinyl. It’s a shame then that, although this album can be downloaded and streamed, the physical product is available only in Australia.
For those not in the know, Radiohead is an English rock band that was formed in the mid-1980s and has sold well over 30 million albums. Jonny Greenwood plays lead guitar, keyboard and other instruments, and on the evidence of Water is acutely responsive to the entire aural spectrum. Water opens to instruments overlapping in their high registers, before we sense the depths of a river bed with a gentle bass drone and some very expressive string-writing, the solo violin playing a key role. Textures gradually thicken, then slim down again, while keeping to a moderate pace, although there are a couple of energetic interludes, the last suggesting a string-based mirror-image of rock. Mostly elegiac, atmospheric and innovative – Water is scored for strings, flutes, keyboard, piano and two Indian tanpura (a long-necked plucked string instrument) – the overall impression is of cultural cross-pollination creatively employed.
Conductor Richard Tognetti considers the pairing with Eine kleine Nachtmusik ‘a curated, deliberate juxtaposition’, though speaking personally I’d rather do my own curating (via my own CD collection) rather than having it imposed on me. More Jonny Greenwood would have opened my ears whereas Tognetti’s characteristically stylish account of the Mozart is, for all its pleasurable impact, neither here nor there, especially as you have to turn the vinyl disc over so that any idea of a creative segue is lost. Still, I do like the occasional alternation of full and solo strings. Applause bursts in at the end of the Mozart, indicating that the recordings are live, although there is no audible evidence of an audience during the actual performances. Playing and recording are excellent.