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Julian Anderson

Imagin’d Corners
Four American Choruses
Book of Hours

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus etc

NMC D121 [2003/2006 80 mins]

A well-packed, impressive compilation of disparate performances, this second discs devoted to him gives a good introduction to Julian Anderson's recent work. He is an interesting composer (b.1967), active in England's musical life in varous guises, and he had a Birmingham residency 2001-2005, documented in this release.

The notes are evocative of influences from various musics, and of visual art inspirations too. Eden grabs attention with its non-vibrato string solos, hocketing allusions and non-tempered tuning. His American hymn settings sound attractively straightforward and accessible, though not without subtleties; not easy, but surely good to sing.

The single movement Symphony has Finnish connections (a frozen lake, etc) in a programme outlined in John Fallas' sympathetic notes, but for me it works listened to as a concentrated, abstract creation of nearly twenty minutes, with the sort of cumulative 'symphonic' growth one experiences with, say, Sibelius' seventh. Very much a symphony for our times, and a landmark in its composer's development.

Book of Hours begins by elaborating four bell notes, with electronics introduced half-way; the second half also treats those four notes (derived from Anderson's piano piece old Bells) but starts disconcertingly with disturbing noise effects, like a scratched LP. Book of Hours is more 'eclectic', experimental and stylistically disparatethan the rest here. It demands to be heard twice; the others on the disc are self-recommending and you will want to do so anyhow for sheer pleasure.

A superb composer portrait CD, with performances and production of NMC's highest standard.

Peter Grahame Woolf

For more comprehensive reviews and analyses of this important disc, see Music Web.