In Sunlight - Pieces for Madeleine Mitchell
A former leader of both the RCM’s Contemporary Ensemble and Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s performing group the Fires of London, Madeleine Mitchell premiered all nine varied works on this generously full NMC anthology – and there are copious rewards to be had along the way.
Take the most recent offering here, for example. Nigel Osborne’s Taw-Raw proves a rivetingly imaginative solo essay: brimful of ear-tickling sonorities, its title derives from the name given to the fiddle used by the Burmese Shan people (according to the composer, ‘an extraordinary hybrid of the coconut fiddle, Western violin and phonograph’). James MacMillan’s Kiss on Wood remains as mesmeric as I’d remembered from a previous encounter in its alternative guise for cello (Black Box, 1/01). The following year, in 1995, MacMillan presented Mitchell with the scarcely less haunting A Different World (a satellite work from his opera Inés de Castro).
Both Stephen Montague’s Folk Dances and Michael Nyman’s On the Fiddle also communicate strongly, the latter a diverting triptych based on material from three of his film scores (Prospero’s Books, A Zed and Two Noughts and The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover). John Woolrich’s subtly restrained ...that is Night boasts considerable economy of thought and forms a satisfying contrast with the tumbling ecstasy and primary colours of Anthony Powers’ In Sunlight. That just leaves Brian Elias’s substantial Fantasia (commissioned by Mitchell as long ago as 1986) and Stuart Jones’s Kothektche (a highly effective solo showpiece inspired by the energetic Turkish dance of the same name).
I’m happy to report that Mitchell turns in a wonderfully accomplished, irreproachably sensitive set of performances and she receives outstanding support from Andrew Ball. Really excellent presentation and sound, too. This enterprising collection deserves every success.