Monday 10 October 2022

Composers' Academy: new works from Hollie Harding, Joel Järventausta & Jocelyn Campbell with Philharmonia Orchestra & Patrick Bailey on NMC

Composers' Academy: Hollie Harding, Joel Järventausta, Jocelyn Campbell; Philharmonic Orchestra, Patrick Bailey; NMC Recordings
Composers' Academy: Hollie Harding, Joel Järventausta, Jocelyn Campbell; Philharmonia Orchestra, Patrick Bailey; NMC Recordings
Reviewed 7 October 2022, (★★★★½)

Three works from the Philharmonia's 2019/20 Composers' Academy; three sophisticated, imaginative, evocative works each conjuring a different mood

Composers Hollie Harding, Joel Järventausta and Jocelyn Campbell, took part in the Philharmonia Orchestra’s 2019/20 Composers’ Academy and the 2019/20 Royal Philharmonic Society Composers programme. On this disc from NMC Recordings, Patrick Bailey conducts the Philharmonia Orchestra in Hollie Harding's What was scattered, Joel Järventausta's Pilgrim and Jocelyn Campbell's CLUBLAND: X-TREME EUPHORIA.

Hollie Harding has been Associate Head of Composition (UG) at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama since 2020. She was 2017 Composer in Residence with CoMA, subsequently led workshops on their Summer School in Orkney, and had pieces performed at their 2018 and 2020 Festivals of Contemporary Music for All. Her 2019 piece, Melting, Shifting, Liquid World was the first composition to incorporate the use of open-ear, bone-conduction headsets alongside live acoustic and amplified instruments to create a multi-layered sonic environment for the audience to move around and within.

What was scattered was completed during what the composer calls a difficult period of lockdown, she sees the work having an underlying sense of longing and searching colouring the piece, as it coloured the world around me at the time.

The work begins delicately, and throughout the piece the clarity and transparency of the writing is notable, a sense of individual threads coming together yet we are always aware of their separation. Though fluid and flowing, it feels as if the music circles round, exploring material from different angles. As the work progresses there is a greater sense of structure, but the whole unwinds and blows away. Harding has a lovely sense of colour and timbre, the work's multi-layered transparent orchestration impressing greatly.

Finnish composer Joel Järventausta is a synesthete, so colours, shapes and imagery play an important role in his music which is often inspired by extra-musical sources and other art forms. He studied at the Royal College of Music and at the University of York. At King's College, London, he studied under Sir George Benjamin and Prof. Silvina Milstein, supported by the Arts & Humanities Scholarship.

In 2022, Joel’s orchestral work Sunfall received four performances by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by François-Xavier Roth in London’s Barbican Centre, Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, Dortmund’s Konzerthaus and Aalborg’s Musikkens Hus. Joel’s choral work There will come soft rains was given several performances in Finland by Helsinki Chamber Choir, conducted by Nils Schweckendiek.

Of Pilgrim, he comments that the 'slow, contemplative - even ritualistic - nature of the music, seemed to me much like that of a solitary pilgrimage'. It begins rather spare and delicate, with a striking use of silence. Though there is a sense of progression, movement, the atmosphere is still thoughtful and contemplative. At times, there were distant hints of Copland's Appalachian Spring. A more intense section leads to music with real drama and tension, but things evaporate, and the work unwinds with a return to the opening style yet with underlying disturbances.

Born in South-West London, Jocelyn Campbell's formative training began at an early age on the double bass, but they quickly became interested in pop, alternative and electronic music throughout secondary school, first playing in bands and then becoming interested in music production. All of these multifarious disciplines remain in their work today.

Jocelyn studied at Middlesex University, becoming interested in composing for film as well as for the concert hall. Both of their subsequent post-graduate degrees have been completed at King’s College London. Firstly, studying under Silvina Milstein for an MMus and then under Sir George Benjamin for a PhD in composition, which was awarded in June 2019. As a composer of music for film Jocelyn has recently worked with Julien Temple on the original scores for his feature-length documentaries Ibiza: The Silent Movie and Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane McGowan.

Jocelyn Campbell comments that trance music was one of the first styles of music they tried to make as a teenager. They describe CLUBLAND: X-TREME EUPHORIA as an ode to Trance compilations such as ‘Classic Euphoria’, ‘Clubland: Extreme’ and ‘Extreme Euphoria'.

Now, I have to confess that I have no real idea about Trance music, my dancing days were restricted to gay disco. So, I come to this piece simply from the point of view of listening to a contemporary classical work. The opening is somewhat surprising, the energy is understated and there is a lovely transparency to the orchestral writing. Throughout the work, there is a feeling of fragments coming together, merging into each other, evoking Trance as if from a distance. There are more rhythmic moments, more intense ones and more structured ones, but the whole has a dream-like feel, not a transcription but a distant evocation and emotional response. The result is a surprisingly sophisticated and finely judged work.

Hollie Harding - What was scattered (2021) [14:19]
Joel Järventausta (born 1995) - Pilgrim  (2021) [12:36]
Jocelyn Campbell - CLUBLAND: X-TREME EUPHORIA (2021) [11:59]
Philharmonia Orchestra
Patrick Bailey (conductor)
Recorded at Wathen Hall, St Paul’s School, London on 22 October 2021

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Elsewhere on this blog

  • Composers' Academy: new works from Hollie Harding, Joel Järventausta & Jocelyn Campbell with Philharmonia Orchestra & Patrick Bailey on NMC Recording - record review
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  • From folk-inspired music to contemporary music mixing Carnatic and Western classical: finale concert of Hatfield House Chamber Music Festival  concert review
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