26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
All three works on this disc are essential Birtwistle. Oliver Knussen is one of best conductors in the world. The London Sinfonietta needs no introduction. And NMC is one of the great independent labels. What else do you need?
Well, I know Birtwistle's music alienates some people, and in its way it is more radical than anything 50/60s Darmstadt serialism could offer. But it is perhaps also the most interesting, often in a extra-musical way.
Birtwistle, perhaps like Michel Foucault, seems to engage with forgotten areas of history (both musical and cultural, especially that of Britain). He makes history seem a strange, different, and incomprehensible world; he stresses its difference, and thus makes us re-exmaine our current position and cultural acrtivity. Like Stravinsky's Agon, his music problematises a notion of linear and progressive development. It is a critique of the rationalism and humanism of the Modern world, and the goal-orientated music that 'accompanied' it. Witness his interogation of pulse and clock time in Silbury Air (on Etcetera), narrative and the idea of character in the Mask of Orpheus (NMC), and, again somewhat like Foucault, his privileging of the sensous, pre-rational world of Archaic/early Classical Greece (eg, Tragoedia (Decca Britain)).
It is primeval music, yet could not have been written at any other time. In a cultural, not musical, sense, it perhaps exhibits, at the very least lays the foundations for, a radical postmodernity (Musical discussion of the modern and postmodern seems to revolve around whether so-and-so's music has a melody or not!)
The best description for all his music is probably Mechanical Pastoral. Read more ›
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