The Moth Requiem

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The Moth Requiem

Choral Works by Harrison Birtwistle

 BBC Singers

As 2014 heralds the composer’s 80th year, Harrison Birtwistle remains one of the most popular voices in contemporary composition in the UK and beyond. This new collection of premiere recordings draws together recent commissions with older works to mark the occasion, with characteristically flawless performances from the BBC Singers under Nicholas Kok. They are joined on this disc by the Nash Ensemble and baritone Roderick Williams.

 

Shortlisted for the British Composer Awards 2014



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What people are saying

"Mr. Birtwistle’s characteristic melodic angularity and rhythmic complexity are duly represented in six pieces written between 1965 and 2012, including two strikingly evocative recent triumphs — the buoyantly mystic “Ring Dance of the Nazarene” and the shadowy, haunting “Moth Requiem” — with all of it sung supremely well." The New York Times

"Recorded after a memorable Proms UK premiere last year, The Moth Requiem is one of Birtwistle's most austerely beautiful works ... The Ring Dance of the Nazarene, featuring a standout contribution from Williams, is similarly striking, as are performances and recording." Classical Music Magazine, 5 Stars, April 2014

 

Roderick Williams baritone
BBC Singers
Nash Ensemble
Nicholas Kok conductor

Release date: 17th Feb 2014
Order code: SIGCD368
Barcode: 635212036822

1.The Ring Dance of the NazareneHarrison Birtwistle24.14
2.Three Latin Motets from 'The Last Supper': I. O bone JesuHarrison Birtwistle3.39
3.Three Latin Motets from 'The Last Supper': II. Pange linguaHarrison Birtwistle2.45
4.Three Latin Motets from 'The Last Supper': III. In supremae nocte cenaeHarrison Birtwistle3.25
5.Carmen PaschaleHarrison Birtwistle5.50
6.LullabyHarrison Birtwistle2.08
7.On the Sheer Threshold of the NightHarrison Birtwistle13.17
8.The Moth RequiemHarrison Birtwistle18.32

If you feel alarm at the prospect of listening to Birtwistle. then just put it on, read the excellent booklet and its song texts, and let his highly personal, unmistakable music wash over you. This is a wonderful and important release of his powerful and often delicate works. Best, perhaps to begin with On the Sheer Threshold of the Night. which is a kind of spin-off from The Mask of Orpheus: recounting and reflecting on Orpheus's fatal backward glance at Eurydice. Threshold is direct, poignant and exquisite. 

The programme covers almost the whole of Birtwistle's creative life to date, from 1965 to 2012. It's the last piece that gives the disc its title, The Moth Requiem, based on the idea of a moth caught inside the lid of a grand piano, brushing the strings and so forth. The music sets a poem by Robin Blaser and intersperses that with a list of Latin names of moths, some of them in danger of extinction, so that the piece becomes a meditation on transience. The longest piece, at 25 minute, is The Ring Dance of the Nazarene, in which Roderick Williams, an artist of extraordinary versatility and intelligence, is the soloist. This disc is the most fitting tribute imaginable to Birtwistle on his 80th birthday. 

 

Michael Tanner, BBC Music Mag

There's something appealingly uncompromising in these choral works by Harrison Birtwistle. Even the idea of setting Robin Blaser's A Literalist (prompted by the sounds of a moth trapped inside a piano) for voices, three harps and alto flute, appeals. But Birtwistle makes the music viscerally elegiac as well. His willingness to force himself and his performers into the beyond is pretty consistent, whether it's keeping the sopranos of the BBC Singers on extended high-range duty, or providing a persistent, unsettling background on the darbuka (an Arab goblet drum) in The Ring Dance of the Nazarene. The repertoire covers nearly half a century of Birtwistle's output, and the vision is consistently acute. 

The Irish Times, Michael Dervan

Recorded after a memorable Proms UK premiere last year, The Moth Requiem is one of Birtwistle's most austerely beautiful works. Scored for women's voices, three harps and alto flute, it movingly pairs Robin Blaser's poem triggered by a memory of the sounds made by a moth trapped under a piano lid with the hauntingly evocative Latin names of moths themselves. The Ring Dance of the Nazarene, featuring a standout contribution from Williams, is similarly striking, as are performances and recording. 

Classical Music Magazine, April 2014, 5 STARS

This vital new collection of choral works offers a handsome snapshot of one of England’s foremost living composers, Harrison Birtwistle, who will celebrate his 80th birthday in July. Mr. Birtwistle’s characteristic melodic angularity and rhythmic complexity are duly represented in six pieces written between 1965 and 2012, including two strikingly evocative recent triumphs — the buoyantly mystic “Ring Dance of the Nazarene” and the shadowy, haunting “Moth Requiem” — with all of it sung supremely well.

The New York Times