Thursday 28 January 2021

Allow yourself to float: Orchestra of the Swan's mix-tape compilation, Timelapse

Timelapse; Orchestra of the Swan; Signum Classics

; Orchestra of the Swan; Signum Classics

Reviewed by Robert Hugill on 27 January 2021 Star rating: 3 (★★★)
A mix-tape from OOTS which floats freely between Rameau and Radiohead, Schubert and Satie

This new disc from the Orchestra of the Swan is the orchestra's first under its new artistic director David le Page [I chatted to David in 2019 about his role]. Timelapse, on Signum Classics, is something of a mix-tape type disc. It features music by Schubert, Grieg, Couperin, Steve Reich, Thomas Ades, Vivaldi, Satie, Radiohead, Rameau, David Bowie, Errollyn Wallen, Johnny Marr and Henryk Gorecki, many in arrangements by David le Page, with two Vivaldi arrangents by saxophonist / composer Trish Clowes and by pianist / composer David Gordon. And the idea behind the disc is to capture something of the atmosphere of the orchestra's multi-genre strand, notably its Night Owl concerts.

Le Page's Schubert arrangement, Sleep Softly, firmly sets the atmosphere as it brings in textures which evoke Arvo Part to create an evocative starting point for a disc which is very much about emotional atmosphere. The music flows continuously, and the disc is more about the journey, the textures and the emotions than the particularities of the pieces. Le Page's selection seems to delight in unlikely juxtapositions such as Rameau and Radiohead, which prove to share emotional bonds.

But Le Page pulls a surprise in Sleep Softly as Arvo Part gives way to striking blues violin, an example of the creative freedom with which the music is treated. No-one should be surprised at finding music by Radiohead or David Bowie here, intelligent musicians whose work transcends boundaries, and the same seems to go for the songwriter Johnny Marr whose There is a Light that Never Goes Out also features on the disc. I have to confess that though, that the makeover of Bowie's Heroes is pretty comprehensive so that I barely recognised it.

The Schubert arrangements stops almost mid-air and then floats into a perfectly straight performance of the Air from Grieg's Holberg Suite. Other works are given straight, such as Steve Reich's tiny Duet (written in 1994 and dedicated to Yehudi Menuhin), Thomas Ades' O Albion from his quartet Arcadiana, which is re-invented as a lush string piece, Errollyn Wallen's Chorale and the third movement from Gorecki's Three Pieces in the Old Style.

Some arrangements take more creative freedom than others, Francois Couperin's Les Barricades Mysterieuses has been simply mined to create an effective string piece, whereas saxophonist Trish Clowes is the soloist on her own Vivaldi arrangement which takes the listener a long way from the original. A second Vivaldi arrangement, features pianist David Gordon in his own distinctive arrangement. 

Hearing Satie on this type of disc feels like a lack of imaginative thinking, but other selections are striking. It is lovely to hear music from Rameau's Les Boreades,  and yes the segue from Radiohead's Pyramid song (in Le Page's striking arrangement with himself, Bruce O'Neil, piano and Graham Install, drums) into Rameau does work.

This is a disc which creates a timeless mix-tape which exists in a limnal world between minimalism and new classical, it leverages a tendency to remix and rework music but does so with intelligence. It is not a disc to put on and listen avidly to each track, reading the booklet notes (there aren't any), but instead to simply put the disc on and allow yourself to float.

Sleep Softly - Franz Schubert (1797-1828)/David Le Page (b.1971) [5.13]
Air - Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) [5.25]
Les Barricades Mystérieuses - François Couperin (1668-1733) arr. Le Page [2.45]
Duet - Steve Reich (b.1936) [5.11]
O Albion - Thomas Adès (b.1971) [3.53]
Sleep 1 - Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)/Trish Clowes (b.1984) [4.47]
Gnossiennes No. 1 - Erik Satie (1886-1925) arr. Le Page [3.26]
Pyramid Song - Yorke/Greenwood/Greenwood/Selway/O’Brien (Radiohead) arr. Le Page [4.36]
Les Boréades (Entrée pour les Muses, les Zéphyres, les Saisons, les Heures et les Artes) - Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)[4.04]
Sleep 2 - Antonio Vivaldi/David Gordon (b.1965) [3.30]
Heroes - David Bowie (1947-2016)/Brian Eno (b.1948) arr. Le Page [6.28]
Chorale - Errollyn Wallen (b.1958) [5.03]
There is a Light that Never Goes Out - Johnny Marr (b.1963) arr. Le Page [6.00]
Three Pieces in Old Style (3rd movement) - Henryk Górecki (1933-2010) [5.17]
David Le Page (Violin)
Catherine Leech (Violin)
Nick Stringfellow (Cellos)
Andrew Davis (bass)
Eleanor Turner (harp)
Trish Clowes (Saxophone)
Bruce O’Neil (Piano)
David Gordon (piano)
Graham Instrall (Drums)
Orchestra of the Swan
Recorded 3 & January, 10 March 2020, Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

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