"Invitation to Composers"
This remarkable and very large collection of recordings and books documents an ingenious international project designed by pianist Anda Anastasescu for The London Schubert Players (not to be confused, all too easily, with The Schubert Ensemble of London, whom we have often reviewed).
This is a youthful international orchestra whose members are listed on the LSP website at http://www.invitationtocomposers.co.uk/players.html.
The distinctive feature of Anda Anastasescu's project was that composers were invited to take as "models" famous compositions "for specific chamber music combinations which do not exist or are very rare in the standard classical music repertoire", including Schubert's "Trout Quintet" for piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass; Saint-Saens' septet for trumpet, piano and string quintet; Messiaen's wartime Quartet for the End of Time for clarinet, piano, violin and cello; Enescu's Op 33 for 12 solo instruments: piano, violin, viola, cello, double bass, flute, oboe, cor anglais, bassoon, clarinet, horn, trumpet, etc
The CDs are backed by books with comments by the international composers of various ages on how they tackled the project, for which guidelines included "cultural elements drawn by the composers from their own indigenous heritage welcome;descriptive titles welcome but not obligatory; maximum duration 20 mins; experimental and electronic music not suited for this project" - so nothing too obscure and heavy!
It works. Naturally there's a lot of variety and the results are, at least, listenable and enjoyable; most of the works (new and likely unfamiliar) are more than that.
The website is so comprehensive that rather than trying to assess individual works I would prefer to leave it with a general recommendation. There's huge variety, with famous composers featured alongside new names, e.g those listed above for the septets... Do surf their website, with lots of pictures and clips. The project had a strong association with the Royal Academy of Music, where many of the works were recorded, one by the Academy's Director of Composition, Philip Cashian.
Peter Grahame Woolf