Bach To Parker
Violinist Thomas Gould, born in 1983, is apt to tell interviewers that there is nothing exceptional about his talent. Don't you believe it! He is leader of the Aurora Orchestra and associate leader of the Britten Sinfonia. Gould has further established himself as one of Britain's leading solo violinists.
Thom is equally at ease playing Bach and Beethoven as he is performing works by the rising young composers featured on this album, or playing jazz, having joined the swing band Man Overboard in 2011 (their first album All Hands on Deck (CHRCD062) was released by Champs Hill Records in 2013).
Opening with Bach's Chaconne in D minor, the final movement of his Second Partita for Solo Violin, a pinnacle or the repertoire, he moves next to 'La Baroque' by Uzbekistan composer Aziza Sadikova (b.1978), an aggressive take on Baroque manners. A more harmonious take on Bach's legacy is presented by Quasi una cadenza, Op. 26, composed in 2002 by Nimrod Borenstein (b.1969).
Rising Scottish composer, Anna Meredith (b.1978) describes her piece charged as having "drive and trajectory by making the violin feel as if it is controlling and suppressing the material and only really letting go towards the end".
Gould has been particularly associated with Nico Muhly (b.1981) since 2008, when he gave the world premiere of Muhly�s concerto for six-string electric violin Seeing is Believing, later recording that work with the Aurora Orchestra for Decca, and includes his Long Line on this album.
Two Extremes was written by Ewan Campbell (b.1983) in 2013 for Thom with the second movement, 'Everything, all at once', written with Thom's incredible virtuosity in mind, using various musical interpretations of the mathematical Fibonacci series Lines written a few miles below, by Mark Bowden (b.1979), was originally conceived as a dance piece, is based on impressions from London's Underground and its passengers.
BoBop by John Hawkins (b.1949) is a bebop-influenced show piece, bluesy and breakneck by turns.
A genuine bebop track associated with another jazz legend, the saxophonist Charlie Parker (1920-55), ends this album.
- Sleeve Notes
Violinist Thomas Gould, born in 1983, is apt to tell interviewers that there is nothing exceptional about his talent. Don't you believe it. Having started learning his difficult yet versatile instrument from the age of three, he continued at the Royal Academy of Music under the great Hungarian violinist Gy'rgy Pauk. Even before graduating, he became leader of the newly founded Aurora Orchestra in 2005 ' today one of England's most acclaimed chamber ensembles ' and the following year, while continuing to hold that post, became associate leader of the Britten Sinfonia.
Gould has further established himself as one of Britain's leading solo violinists. Most appropriately for a master of such a versatile instrument, he is equally at ease playing Bach and Beethoven as he is performing works by the rising young composers featured on this album, or playing jazz, having joined the swing band Man Overboard Quintet in 2011 (their first album All Hands on Deck was released by Champs Hill Records in 2013). Gould is keen to escape the straight-jacket of genre ' whether of so-called 'classical' or 'avant-garde' music ' and has played classical repertoire in some unusual venues such as Limelight, Classical Kicks at Ronnie Scott's and the Nonclassical club founded by composer Gabriel Prokofiev: several of the works programmed in this album were first heard under Nonclassical's auspices where new music of all sorts ' ranging from rap to electronica, as well as such landmark modernist works as Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire ' is performed.
An even older tradition, or rather, common foundation for much of music even today, is Johann Sebastian Bach (1685'1750). Gould has often programmed Bach's unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas in his concerts together with several of the new works featured on this album. Bach's Chaconne in D minor, the final movement of his Second Partita for Solo Violin, is one of the greatest pinnacles not only of this cycle but of the entire violin repertory. Lasting about a quarter of an hour, this substantial movement is often performed on its own, not only by violinists but also in arrangements for guitar, piano and even full orchestra. From a recurring theme based on a descending motif ' D-C-B flat-A ' Bach weaves variations so masterfully that the piece evolves naturally into three parts: an intense opening section in the home minor key, then a more sweet-toned major section, and finally a return to the minor in a more reflective style.
The young American composer Nico Muhly (b. 1981) is perhaps most famous for his opera Two Boys, recently co-produced by English National Opera and New York's Metropolitan Opera. Gould has been associated with Muhly since 2008, when he gave the world premiere of Muhly's concerto for six-string electric violin Seeing is Believing, subsequently recording that work with the Aurora Orchestra for Decca. Here, Gould plays Muhly's A Long Line: the title refers to the solo violinist's initially long- sustained line, accompanied by what the composer describes as 'a sequence of chords aggressively played by pre-recorded electronics. As the chords get closer together, the violin line moves from slow and simple long lines towards more athletic, complicated passagework.'
Graham Williams (b. 1938) teaches at the Royal Academy of Music where Thomas Gould was a student, and first composed for Gould in 2007 his violin and piano work, Three Night Pictures. Mr Punch followed in 2011 (the same year in which Williams composed his piano piece Punch and Judy), which Gould premiered in 2013 at The Macbeth in north London, as part of a Nonclassical presentation (which also included the premiere of Ewan Campbell's Everything, All at Once ' see below). Williams describes his solo violin work as 'a fragmented fantasy characterisation of Mr Punch, who is unpredictable, violent and sad by turns'. Starting with a high squeal which might be thought to represent the cry of Punch himself, the work alternates Stravinsky-style pantomime with more lyrical episodes.
Rising Scottish composer Anna Meredith (b. 1978), appears in some ways to be following the footsteps of her compatriot Judith Weir (recently appointed Master of the Queen's Music). Both composers have worked extensively with young musicians, and take a light and accessible approach to their work (which is not to say they fall into the easy listening category!). Meredith gained widespread attention when commissioned to compose a work for 2008's Last Night of the Proms: she chose to write for five different groups of musicians, each performing with its own conductor in a different corner of the UK ' truly putting modern communication via satellite through its paces!
Meredith's solo violin piece, Charged, was composed in 2007, just before that burst of fame: she describes it as 'my attempt to see how much forward momentum and energy I could get out of a very small starting point. I've tried to give this idea of drive and trajectory by making the violin feel as if it is controlling and suppressing the material and only really letting go towards the end.' Starting with tight, scrunchy chords, full of pent-up energy, the piece becomes increasingly exuberant and bouncy.
Born in Israel and raised in France, Nimrod Borenstein (b. 1969) evolved his compositional style from 20th-century techniques such as serialism and 'sound clusters' through to his own approach to traditional systems of tonality. He was also trained as a violinist ' indeed, he originally came to London to further his studies under Itzhak Rashkovsky at the Royal College of Music before choosing to devote himself to composition ' and so has a particular empathy with the violin's expressive potential. Quasi Una Cadenza, Op.26, composed in 2002, harks back to Bach's legacy through the prism of a pre-First World War tradition, represented by such violinist-composers as Kreisler and Ysa'e. Borenstein describes his solo piece: 'Both lyrical and virtuosic, Quasi Una Cadenza is one of several single movement compositions I have written with the idea of creating short meaningful pieces which by their intensity and rich inner diversity give the illusion of much longer works.'
British composer Ewan Campbell (b. 1983) studied at Cambridge under Robin Holloway, then completed his doctorate at King's College London under George Benjamin and Silvina Milstein. He was composer-in-residence with the venerable Cambridge University Musical Society (CUMS) during the 2012'13 season. As well as teaching both at Cambridge University and at King's College, London, Campbell tutors composers on the Aldeburgh Young Musician Scheme. Campbell writes about his two-movement solo violin work: 'Two Extremes was written in 2013 for Thom, although the sketches date from a solo viola piece some ten years earlier. The second movement, Everything, All at Once, was written with Thom's incredible virtuosity in mind, and uses various musical interpretations of the mathematical Fibonacci series to compound layers of exponentially growing instrumental complexity, creating a vivacious toccata.' Gould played the premiere of this work at The Macbeth, as part of the same Nonclassical presentation in which he premiered Graham Williams's Mr Punch mentioned earlier. The movement Everything, All at Once was subsequently partnered with a preceding movement, Rare Nothings which, Campbell explains, involves 'an unusual 'circular bowing' technique to stimulate the harmonic spectra of an open string.'
In the former Soviet Union, Bach's music seemed a tantalizing vision of a higher civilization, one which provoked various responses from the yearning nostalgia of Valentin Silvestrov to more angry and curdled treatments by Alfred Schnittke. The reaction of post-World War II Soviet musicians to Bach's music was further complicated by its close association in their minds with Canadian pianist Glenn Gould's landmark 1957 tour of Moscow and Leningrad (present-day St Petersburg): Glenn Gould not only performed Bach in a manner which was revelatory but he also ' without warning ' played such 'modern' and officially banned composers as Schoenberg, Webern and Krenek. This confluence of Bach with such modern composers has haunted the imagination of Russian and Russian-trained composers ever since.
Inheriting this approach to Bach's music is Uzbekistan composer Aziza Sadikova (b. 1978). Born in Tashkent, Sadikova studied piano and composition from the age of five at the Uspensky Special Music School for gifted children. She then entered the Tashkent State Conservatory (1996'98), studying composition under Tashkent- born Russian Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, whom Sadikova describes as the one composer 'who really influenced me'. She completed her studies in England, first at the Birmingham Conservatoire (studying under Philip Cashian 1998'2001) then Trinity College of Music (Alwynne Pritchard and Stephen Montague 2004'2006). Sadikova's association with Thomas Gould began when he premiered Variation, her aggressive take on baroque manners, with the Britten Sinfonia at the 2011 Ether Festival in London's Queen Elizabeth Hall. Sadikova subsequently composed and dedicated La Baroque to Thomas Gould in 2012, inspired, she says, by Gould's 'contrastingly delicate and highly expressive violin playing'; incorporating 'elements of Early and New Music techniques', her piece for solo violin affords 'a short glance into the 'soundscape' of Baroque'.
Although born in Osaka, Japan, Dai Fujikura (b. 1977) has made England his adopted home since his compositional studies there with Edwin Roxburgh, Daryl Runswick and George Benjamin. Originally aspiring to become a film composer, Fujikura was inspired to write music for the concert hall through his studies of works by Boulez, Ligeti and Takemitsu at London's Trinity College of Music (whence he graduated in 2000, just a few years before Sadikova studied there). Now settled in London with his wife and family, Fujikura has composed for the BBC Proms and for various orchestras including the London Sinfonietta and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, as well as such orchestras as the S'mon Bol'var Youth Orchestra and the Munich Chamber Orchestra. Kusmetche, composed in 2013, draws from one of his orchestral works, Banitza Groove!, its solo violin part being derived from that work's violin duo parts. The resulting solo work, Fujikura explains, 'is based on a Bulgarian dance rhythm. Kusmetche means 'luck' in Bulgarian'.
Mark Bowden (b. 1979) formed with Anna Meredith and three other composers the Camberwell Composers' Collective before being himself appointed Music Fellow of the Rambert Dance Company during the 2011'12 season. With the Polish choreographer Malgorzata Dzierzon, Bowden created Lines Written a Few Miles Below, based on impressions from London's Underground and its passengers. Bowden describes the work: 'The choreography for the piece draws on observations of London commuters and portrays the different ways that intimate or private behaviours, such as sleeping, eating, kissing and arguing, can manifest themselves on public transport. The music is constructed from two different elements: the first is an electronic part comprising real sounds collected during various journeys on the London Underground and the second is a live violin line, written for Thomas Gould. Occasionally percussive sounds from the live violin, music from commuters' headphones and ghostly fragments of a busker's melody find their way into the electronic part. The title of the piece is a play on the poem Lines Written a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey by William Wordsworth in which Wordsworth contemplates the 'tranquil restoration' of nature's beauty. Malgorzata and I found it interesting to observe the different ways that people strive to find a personal sense of tranquility within the frenzied subterranean world of the Underground.'
BoBop by John Hawkins (b. 1949), a pupil of Malcolm Williamson and Elisabeth Lutyens, was originally composed in 2004 for the violinist Emily Pringle, herself a fan of the jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. Rather than create something in the laid- back style of that pianist, Hawkins composed what he describes as 'a bebop- influenced show piece, bluesy and breakneck by turns'.
A genuine bebop track associated with another jazz legend, the saxophonist Charlie Parker (1920'55), ends this album. Although Parker is often credited as its author, Donna Lee was in fact composed by the jazz trumpeter Miles Davis in 1947, who then recorded the work that year as a member of saxophonist Charlie Parker's quintet. Named after Curly Russell's daughter, Donna Lee Russell, it seems appropriate that this jazz standard is played by Gould together with bassist David O'Brien.
- Press Reviews
"Thomas Gould's commitment to composers of his generation is impressive"
"...an absorbing performance of the Bach Chaconne. Donna Lee has an insouciant zest, and releases real suppleness in Gould's playing.
- BBC Music Magazine "...an admirable performance technically (with just enough of a stamp of his own personality to make it distinctive), the tempo relationships make sense, and his music argument is intelligent but not uncomplicated." "Champs Hill has proved itself reliable in backing winners among young musicians ... all the new music on this disc showcases Gould's versatility at the same time as allowing his unfussy, unegotistical playing of the new music to burgeon. Long may that virtuous circle continue in his radiant playing."
- Caroline Gill, Gramophone "Scythingly scintillating playing from a young virtuoso with a magpie mind."
- Richard Morrison, The Times "This beautifully recorded and well-annotated disc is unusual and wide-ranging. Thomas Gould seems to have the knack of making valuable and engaging discs"
- MusicWeb International "Gould's technical prowess and musical intelligence are established right from the start..." "Gould's tone is sumptuous throughout, regardless of the style he is required to play..." "The whole CD is a fascinating look at the contemporary music scene in England, and at the way that many young virtuoso musicians view their role and fiction in a changing musical world."
- The Whole Note
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