We’re excited about two albums we feature on the NMC label will be released on 21 September 2018, by two talented English composers, Huw Watkins and Jonathan Dove.
Huw Watkins: Symphony
Welsh-born Huw Watkins is one of today’s leading composer-pianists and this album (his second for NMC Recordings) showcases his vibrant, lyrical and impeccably crafted orchestral writing.
Both the Flute and Violin Concertos were composed for soloists with whom he already had a close working relationship. Adam Walker is the principal flautist for the London Symphony Orchestra, who Watkins describes as having an ‘amazing sound and control of his instrument’.
The delicate orchestration in the Flute Concerto allows the solo flute to take flight as it weaves in and out with skittish motifs.
Alina Ibragimova is the soloist in the Violin Concerto, premiered at the BBC Proms in 2010. The piece harnesses Ibragimova’s dynamic and intense, fiercely intelligent playing, switching from attacking virtuosity and molten lyricism, often in an instant. The result is dramatic and utterly compelling.
In this album’s liner notes, Steph Power writes that Watkins has ‘long seemed a symphonist in waiting, with a natural affinity for big-boned yet finely-wrought drama’. Cast in two movements, Huw Watkins’ Symphony does not strictly adhere to classical symphonic form. Rather, the composer interprets this great tradition through his development of ideas and use of the orchestra. The result is a thrilling, huge and percussive sound, brimming with excitement and energy.
Jonathan Dove: A Brief History of Creation
Both pieces on this album were inspired by scientific ideas about the world we live in. Title track A Brief History of Creation, commissioned by The Hallé Concerts Society for its Children’s Choir, is a fantastic romp through 14 billion years of history, from cell division (the choir reduced to one single, tiny voice) to dinosaurs, sharks, monkeys and finally to man. The Guardian said of its premiere in 2016 ‘Dove has a remarkable aptitude for writing music that is challenging to sing, stimulating to listen to, yet simple to remember. The outstanding Hallé Children’s Choir covered almost 14 billion years entirely from memory’. Inspiration for the piece was sparked by a visit to a James Turrell art installation.”It gave me the feeling of looking through space to the first stars: it started children’s voices singing in my mind’s ear, surrounded by twinkling percussion. I found myself wondering about the beginning of the universe … I thought it would be fun to sing about the birth of the Earth and the beginning of life”, Dove explains. Dove and the librettist Alasdair Middleton picked “the best bits of the story” and the children perform it on this live recording with gusto.
Gaia Theory was inspired by a trip Dove took to the Arctic – a project called Cape Farewell, organised to allow artists to witness climate change first-hand. Dove says the experience woke him up to the speed and scale of changes taking place: on return, he wondered how it might be possible ‘to write about this without finger-wagging’. Dove turned to the work of scientist James Lovelock, who developed the idea that the Earth behaves as a self-regulating organism, which always maintains a balance favourable for life. Lovelock himself describes this relationship as a dance, making it natural for Dove to set to music. The resulting piece is a celebration of the resilience of life.