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Simon Bainbridge

Fantasia for double orchestra
(BBC Symphony Orchestra/Simon Bainbridge)
Concerto for viola & orchestra (Composers Ensemble/Michael Tilson Thomas; Walter Trampler)
Concertante in Moto Perpetuo, for oboe & ensemble (Composers Ensemble/Michael Tilson Thomas)


NMC Ancora D126


I attended this recording's launch party, a memorable occasion at the top of New Zealand House in 1990, looking down over Buckingham Palace and its gardens. It was a landmark in Simon Bainbridge's distinguished career, though less so for the short-lived Continuum record company.

Its resuscitation exemplifies the invaluable rescue operation of NMC's Ancora project, which not only recovers valuable CDs which might otherwise be relegated to second hand outlets, but guarantees them a long life in the catalogues, no longer at the mercy of the vicititudes of changing business fortunes and record company accountants.

Spatial organisation is crucial for the Bainbridge's Fantasia and whilst stereo separation helps towards its "constantly varying kaleidoscopic spatial effect" between the two orchestras, it really is a piece that demands to be played live in concert. The Proms, perhaps, when Bainbridge qualifies as a featured composer, like Harvey this year?

Nick Daniel burbles along delightfully with an oboe piece reincarnated with chamber ensemble and dedicated to Bainbridge's (then) 2-yr old daughter. I hope she still enjoys it.

I found the viola concerto the most rewarding of all to revisit, a substantial two movement work, nearly half an hour. "The music takes its time to unfold, and is carefully signposted". The orchestration is subtle, with two offstage additional violas in the more subdued second movement.

A most welcome Ancora.






© Peter Grahame Woolf