The Chronicle

This CD demonstrates the violin at its most bleak/stark/purest; take your pick.

Even Atlantic Drift, which opens with the sound of a lively folk song, is sparse and with an edge. This is not a criticism, just to say the album is mostly not warm or romantic, just dry and slightly melancholy; more a funeral in October than dancing in May. It has a range of sounds and it’s a varied collection and hard to sum up in a short review.

Violin Muse brings together seven premiere recordings of works by British composers, five of them written for Mitchell. It’s a diverse selection, and the modern programme has a traditional air to it.

Opener is Geoffrey Poole’s Rhapsody, whose sections of jazz-ish violin and piano reminded us (but possibly no-one else) of French folk band Lo’Jo. Further in, the piece gets more melodic. Poole says he wanted the piece to be “calm, songful, soulful, sunny and accessible — yet emotionally mature and complex”.

The piece is inspired by a poem from American writer Dorianne Laux, celebrating her husband’s life — he survived falling off a ladder and the ladder’s unsteady rungs are described in Rhapsody’s tenser passages, says Poole. All this explanation and only one track in.

Guto Puw’s Violin Concerto — the disc’s only work with orchestra — is next and it’s got an oppressive feel (so, Russian, as we always find Russian music slightly claustrophobic). It is inspired by lines from act five of Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice.

Overall, it’s a meaty programme with lots to hold the interest. Despite being modern, none of it is “challenging”, as the more unlistenable modern music is described. In fact, it’s got a depth you’d expect from a CD of more established music.

It features the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Cerys Jones, Edwin Outwater and Nigel Clayton. The composers are David Matthews, Geoffrey Poole, Guto Puw, Judith Weir, Michael Berkeley, Michael Nyman and Sadie Harrison.

—Jeremy Condliffe