Monday 25 April 2016

In lieblicher Bläue - new orchestral works by Julian Anderson

Julian Anderson In lieblicher Bläue, Alleluia, Stations of the Sun; Carolin Widmann, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski; LPO Live
Reviewed by Robert Hugill on Apr 13 2016
Star rating: 3.5

Live recordings of three of Julian Anderson's large-scale works, testament to his relationship with the LPO

The composer Julian Anderson was composer in residence with the London Philharmonic Orchestra from 2010 to 2014 and this disc on the LPO's own label is testament to that relationship. All three works, In lieblicher Bläue, Alleluia and The Stations of the Sun were recorded live at the Royal Festival Hall with Vladimir Jurowski conducting the London Philharmonic Orchestra with Carolin Widmann the soloist in In lieblicher Bläue, and the orchestra is joined by the London Philharmonic Choir for Alleluia.

Julian Anderson studied with John Lambert, Alexander Goehr and Tristan Murail and there is often a sensuously tactile quality to his orchestral writing which the French connection with Murail highlights.

In lieblicher Bläue was co-commissioned by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and premiered by them, with Carolin Widmann as soloist, in 2015. The work, which Anderson describes as a poem for violin and orchestra, is a violin concerto in all but name, based in a Hölderlin poem. Though Anderson refers to the poem in his booklet note, the poem itself is rather frustratingly absent.

Lasting 20 minutes in a single arc, the work is multi-sectional as Anderson responds to different facets of the poem. There is a sustained sense of drama in the way that Anderson articulates the relationship between soloist and orchestra; this is no concerto in the sense of a 19th century showpiece, but Widmann's violin is far more than primus inter pares.

Despite some angular dramatic moments, the writing is predominantly lyrical but Widmann brings a wiring strength to this too.  It is a serious, lyrical and rather sober work yet Anderson's orchestra writing often evokes a sense of the mystical with some gorgeous textures from which the violin emerges.

Alleluia was commissioned by the South Bank Centre for the re-opening of the Royal Festival Hall in 2007. In his notes Anderson says that his original intention was to just set the word Alleluia but in fact uses the 10th century Alleluia Sequence. In the opening, quasi plainchant phrases from the choir gradually emerge from a perfumed mystical Messiaen-like aura in the orchestra. This develops into a lively choral setting. The choir sound is rather recessed and virtually no words are detectable apart from the key Alleluia.

A babel-like moment of Alleluias crowns this section, followed by quiet, intense unaccompanied writing which leads to sustained vocal lines over an orchestral texture which again brings to mind exotic (or perhaps erotic) mysticism. The final section relies solely on the word Alleluia, with a variety of colourations coming from the orchestra, leading to the highly mystical ending.

The final work Stations of the Sun was written for the 1998 BBC Proms. It is very much an orchestral showpiece inspired by Ronald Hutton's book of the same name which looked at folk-customs in the UK.Anderson has based the work around the idea of a seasonal cycle of celebrations, in four sections.

It is an impressive, large-scale work which opens with a vigorous and strikingly scored Scherzo. The slower section leads via a dance-like passage into some music which has a sustained sense of ecstasy again. So much so, that you feel there is a more detailed narrative lurking underneath, and the fact that the plainsong Alleluia Adorabo emerges from beneath all the layers of complexity only goes to tantalise further. There are some lovely textures along the way, and quite a sensual quality to Anderson's writing albeit tempered with violence too. the whole thing ends mid air as, during a fascinatingly complex passage where something new seems about to happen, the music simply stops.

All three recordings were made live and under Vladimir Jurowski's expert direction, the performances are highly impressive with little sense of the performers finding their way with Anderson's style. I have to admit that, for all the mystical sensuality of Anderson's orchestral writing, the music frequently fails to make a direct emotional connection for me and it is music that I admire rather than love. But you cannot fail but admire not only the skill and imagination of the works, but the way Anderson seems to have embedded his music so well with the orchestra.

Julian Anderson (born 1967) - In lieblicher Bläue (2015) [20:24]
Julian Anderson - Alleluia (2007) [16.25]
Julian Anderson - The Stations of the Sun (1998) [17.37]
Carolin Widmann (violin)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
London Philharmonic Choir
Vladimir Jurowski (conductor)
Recorded 14 March 2015, 1 March 2014, 7 December 2013 at the Royal Festival Hall
LPO-0089 1CD [54.26]

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