TURNAGE: From the Wreckage; Speranza – London Symphony Orch./ Daniel Harding – LSO Live multichannel SACD LSO0744, 55:40 [11/13/13] [Dist. by Harmonia mundi] ****:
This disc contains two works by English composer Mark-Anthony Turnage. Turnage’s works are often influenced by the jazz idiom, in particular some of the works of Miles Davis. Turnage has written an opera, some chamber music, and a multitude of concertos and choral works.
The opening work on the disc is From the Wreckage, a concerto for trumpet and orchestra that was written in 2005. The work documents a journey from despair to optimism in a changing world, the piece has one movement but in three distinct sections. Trumpet soloist Hakan Hardenberger begins with a darker-sounding Flugelhorn, and progresses to the trumpet as the piece proceeds. Reflecting the program, the piece starts with darkness and dissonance, and progresses to a more upbeat conclusion. The brass solos are excellent, and the piece was actually written for Hardenberger.
The final composition is Speranza, written in 2012 and commissioned by the London Symphony, who performs the piece on this disc. Speranza, or “hope’ was originally a piece about suicide. Eventually, the composer abandoned the suicide theme, and the piece became more optimistic. The four movements are also jazz-influenced, with much dissonance and odd syncopations. The orchestra plays this difficult work with precision and enthusiasm. I hear echoes of some of Leonard Bernstein and his jazz-influenced rhythms in this piece, but Speranza has its own voice and signature.
The recording is a very fine SACD 5.1 rendering. Left-to-right separation is easily discernible, and the rear channels capture the sound of the recording venue, which was the Barbican Centre in London. I’ve heard concerts there, and the recording does capture the Barbican’s sonic signature.
Both works presented are what I would deem ‘confrontational’. It is the kind of music that will connect with you or leave you cold. I didn’t find the music the kind I would listen to over and over again as I might Bartok or Mahler, but it is worth a listen as Turnage is a skilled composer who represents some of the best of the contemporary musical scene.