If I say that the music on this disc is complex, this is not to suggest a particular style of musical composition (no one would confuse these pieces with anything by Carter or Ferneyhough, for example), but that it requires close attention. As with any kind of elaborate patterning (though, once again, this music is far from mere patterns), one needs to follow the intricacies of the tracery carefully in order to derive anything from it.
Patterns are, in fact, suggested by two of the pieces recorded here: Paul Archbold’s Of crossed destinies (inspired by Calvino’s The Castle of Crossed Destinies) and Fabrice Fitch’s Filigranes pour les Frères Limbourg, and very intricate patterns they are. The final Lento of Archbold’s Of crossed destinies is, I think, the most impressive movement of the work, exploring the rich resonance of the harp in a solemn peroration. Pas de Deux makes intriguing and very original use of the sonorities of viola and piano, the two instruments often playing the same material and creating a haunting, spectral sound, as in the opening Lento, or a buzzing, folky timbre as in the tiny Allegro. Fitch’s Structures en Bronze for trombone and percussion is a deep exploration of the glissando, quite superbly performed by Barrie Webb and Julian Warburton. The trombone writing ranges from the elegiac to deep rumblings, melting into the percussion sounds, and the extraordinary siren-like effects at the end of the piece. Filigranes pour les Frères Limbourg is rather different, its elusive textures and triptych structure aiming to suggest the work of the Limbourg brothers. The Commentaire en forme de Prologue is a transcription of an Ars Subtilior ballade, Se Galaas et le puissant Artus which puts me in mind of Birtwistle’s transcription of Machaut and Ockeghem for instrumental ensemble. Its relationship to Filigranes remains elusive, at least for this listener (the composer describes it as ‘a kind of musical programme note’, but it is unrelated to the main work musically and is to be performed separately from it). The three pieces from Wind-Up are miniatures, each of which explores, as is the case with Archbold’s Etudes en mouvement, a particular musical mechanism. This may sound a Ligetian process, but the actual music is quite different. Performances throughout are excellent.