On record: London Symphony Orchestra / François-Xavier Roth – Panufnik Legacies III (LSO Live)

Panufnik Legacies III:
Ashby Desires (2016)
Campbell Frail Skies (2015)
Giguère Revealing (2015)
Horrocks-Hopayian A Dancing Place (Scherzo) (2010)
Lee Brixton Briefcase (2011)
Morgan-Williams Scoot (2015)
Roth Bone Palace Ballet (2014)
Sergeant but today we collect adds (2008)
Shin In this Valley of Dying Stars (2016)
Siem Ojos Del Cielo (2008)
Taplin Ebbing Tides (2014)
Whitter-Johnson Fairtrade? (2008)

London Symphony Orchestra / François-Xavier Roth

Producer Jonathan Stokes
Engineer Neil Hutchinson
Recorded 26-27 April 2019, LSO St Lukes, London

LSO Live LSO5092 [67’54”]

Reviewed by Richard Whitehouse

What’s the story?

Operating since 2005, the LSO Panufnik Composers Scheme (in memory of the Polish-born British composer) has enabled a generation of aspiring artists to be heard on an international platform, with results that are rarely less than diverting and sometimes not a little compelling.

What’s the music like?

Ayanna Witter-Johnson questions the ethicality of third-world production in the interests of Western consumerism via an eventful while (purposely?) inconclusive interplay of grinding rhythms and ominous harmonies. Ewan Campbell draws on meteorological conditions of the sky for this study of no mean textural and timbral finesse, though what is much the longest piece rather loses focus in its fraught closing stages. Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian toys with concepts derived from Ancient Greek theatre, Classical concepts of democracy and the Marx Brothers in this scherzo whose gender-specific aspects go for little assessed purely as music. Donghoon Shin takes his cue from the nature of stars in a piece whose overtly impressionist elements do not preclude episodes of more purposeful activity, even scintillating virtuosity.

Alex Roth seeks to convey notions of human experience through a diverse orchestral palette – submerged within, an 1888 recording of Handel’s Israel in Egypt adds its intriguing temporal resonance. Matthew Sergeant draws on disparate objects displayed at a 1953 exhibition for a sequence of vignettes whose unforeseen interconnectedness results in unlikely yet engaging variations on the initial premise. Patrick Giguère seems intent on conveying that process of ‘revealing’ less as a reduction in musical layers as of accessing the essence of the composer, which proves worthwhile more in theory than in practice. Sasha Siem takes up the notion of ‘‘the eyes of a person who is absent or no longer there’’ for a piece where the struggle of a melody to break into the foreground creates palpable tension in the shortest of these pieces.

Bethan Morgan-Williams gives preference to clarinets in music whose sudden transformation from nonchalance to anxiety is achieved with appealing verve and an ultimately barbed irony. Michael Taplin has contributed a study in (as its title suggests) emergence and evanescence such as the orchestra is well equipped to convey, provided that the music does not outstay its welcome. Benjamin Ashby seeks to reconcile opposites – namely those of the flesh and of the spirit – in a process where understated antagonisms (inevitably?) seems rather more arresting than even their tentative reconciliation. Finally, Joanna Lee draws upon memories of cassette players (presumably those formerly referred to as ‘ghetto-blasters’) that frequently enlivened inner-city environs during the 1980s, albeit with greater visceral impact than is evident here.

Does it all work?

Mostly, and not least because François-Xavier Roth draws playing of unstinting commitment from the London Symphony Orchestra. His support for the Panufnik Composers Scheme has been a primary factor in its success over the past 15 years and will doubtless continue to be so.

Is it recommended?

Yes, notwithstanding a relative lack of underlying rhythmic energy or cumulative momentum with almost all these pieces. Anyone interested in sampling what is on offer should head to the Shin, Sergeant or Siem pieces (though not necessarily in that order!) then proceed from there.

Listen

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For further information, audio clips and purchase information visit the LSO Live website

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