The centerpiece of this 2011 Jonathan Harvey release is "Bird Concerto with Pianosong", which the late British composer wrote way back in 2001 and is only now recorded by the London Sinfonietta conducted by David Atherton. A pianist, here Hidéki Nagano, imitates bird song, but he also triggers recordings of 40 Californian birds' songs by pressing keys on a MIDI keyboard located next to the concert grand. This is an hommage to Messiaen, the French composer famously crazy for birdsong, but Harvey's piece sounds like no one other than Harvey. One can expect characteristic Harvey touches like electronic sounds moving in space and meditative passages. However, I must admit to boredom when listening to this concerto -- at a half-hour, it vastly overstays its welcome considering that its substance is rather simple. I would not rank it among his major pieces, at least on disc. In concert, where the sounds are flying around the concert hall, the effect might be altogether different.
But the disc also features several solo pieces for instruments and tape delay effects. "Ricercare una melodia" (1984) has been arranged for a number of instruments and is present here in its oboe (Gareth Hulse) and cello (Tim Gill) versions. The soloist is truly alone only for the first couple of seconds, and then rich counterpoint develops through earlier moments of his solo line being played back over whatever he has moved on to since. "Other Presences" for solo trumpet (2006, here played by Paul Archibald) is in the same vein, but benefits from slightly more advanced technology. In the beginning, the replayed trumpet sounds almost sound like a Tibetan horn, a sonority that has long interested the composer, but the playback then moves on to overtly electronic sounds.
My feelings on the concerto might not be shared by everyone. Who knows, maybe this is a friendly and accessible introduction for Harvey neophytes. However, I find much more substance in his string quartets or the orchestral works here.