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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting new piano works, small and large, 18 July 2005
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Klingsor Tristan (Suffolk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Birtwistle: The Axe Manual; Harrisons Clocks etc (Audio CD)
A curious mixture, this disc. This is a collection of what, in the Nineteenth Century, would probably have been called Album Pieces, dating from Birtwistle's teenage years (Ookooing Bird) almost up to the present. These are slight pieces, all interesting, all reflecting the composer's uncompromising style, but not enough to delay the listener much longer than the time it takes to play them. And then there are two major works - Harrison's Clocks and The Axe Manual.
Both these pieces' titles are typical Birtwistle puns. The first refers to the famous horologist who created timepieces that allowed mariners to accurately fix their longitude as much as to its composer's christian name. It is a series of explorations of the kind of musical clockwork mechanisms that Birtwistle often uses to drive his material (cf. Silbury Air, Carmen Arcadiae, Pulse Sampler, large sections of Yan Tan Tethera etc.). Fiendishly difficult to play, one suspects, with their complex overlayering of rhythms, but hugely satisfying to listen to.
The Axe Manual was originally written for Emanuel Ax (hence the pun) and Evelyn Glennie. It is a thrilling piece in which the percussionist gradually works their way round a semi circle of instruments from drums through marimba to wood blocks, etc. and back again, conjuring a huge array of colours and textures as well as rhythms.
All the performances on this disc are impeccable. Nicolas Hodges is a pianist who specialises in modern music and has had many works written specifically for him. He has that rare ability with new and unfamiliar pieces not only to get his fingers round the notes (tough enough in many of these works), but also to communicate with true musicality. He makes Harrison's Clocks even more approachable and exciting than Joanne McGregor did on her pioneering recording. For the Axe Manual he is joined by the Australian percussionist, Claire Edwardes, and the two of them provide a performance every bit as mesmeric and thrilling as in their live UK premiere performance. A highly recommendable disc.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Make sure you turn the volume up for this one!, 8 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Birtwistle: The Axe Manual; Harrisons Clocks etc (Audio CD)
Few composers write for piano, or piano and percussion with such a distinctive take on things as Birtwistle. The smaller works are charming, and very interesting as a record, but buy this CD for the kaleidoscopic performance of the Axe Manual and the dazzling excitement of Harrison's Clocks. A first rate CD. Make sure to turn to the volume up!
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Birtwistle: The Axe Manual; Harrisons Clocks etc
Birtwistle: The Axe Manual; Harrisons Clocks etc by Harrison Birtwistle (Audio CD - 2004)
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