This very welcome new release from RCO Live is subtitled “new sound spaces – an orchestra expands its horizons” and consists of three world premières by contemporary composers and a second recording on SACD of Glanert’s Theatrum Bestiarum. This is to a large extent a collection of very accessible modern music thoroughly deserving of attention.
Detlev Glanert (b.1960) revised his work Theatrum Bestiarum in 2006 and it is this revised version played here. Glanert views the human race as a zoo, “man as beast”, and the music reflects man’s cynical and insolent moods. A pupil of Henze, Glanert combines many arts in his compositions and the listener will hear references to world popular music in his works; in addition, this work is dedicated to Shostakovich and quotes surreptitiously one of his string quartets towards the end.
Theo Verbeij (b.1959) wrote Lied for trombone and orchestra in 2007; the trombone part produces the full range of the male singing voice, and the inspiration for the work came from various poets, Verbeij imagining how they would sound if sung. “A trombonist is like a body builder rocking a baby to sleep” and Van Rijen show it can be done! There is some superb playing here, the piece showing off the range of the instrument so well.
Colin Matthews (b.1946) was Benjamin Britten’s assistant following Imogen Holst, and like his mentor has been inspired among others by Mahler. The title Turning Point came about as a result of the work developing from fast music, followed by an even more energetic scherzo turning into, for the second half, a deeply intense and slow tempo. The orchestra’s colours are fully used in this piece, the Royal Concertgebouw producing some wonderful sounds.
Moritz Eggert (b.1965) has written music using a variety of genres and is a highly respected pianist who also plays jazz, and writer. This delightful work has some wonderful saxophone sounds colouring the jazzy sequences, some pop references, American film music, all of which flash by excitingly. The piece was inspired by one of David Hockney’s paintings, A Bigger Splash, the splash itself frozen in time.
Markus Stenz has long been a champion of contemporary music, as has the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and the combination here produces performances of stature and confidence. The recording quality is quite superb – RCO Live’s engineers just keep on getting better and better – and the textures of each piece remain clear in the famed acoustic of that concert hall.
The new issue is well worth acquiring – in addition to RCO Live’s recent issue of music by Alban Berg, here is some more modern music of which to be unafraid! Most highly recommended!