Wheel of Emptiness : press review

AUDIO excerpts from this CD

Gramophone, September 2001 :

An outstanding disc of a leading British composer Jonathan Harvey that beats all competing versions, by Arnold Whittall

Three of the compositions on this disc offer ideal introductions to Jonathan Harvey's work, showing how music centering on a single line, or instrument, can evolve into a potently imaginative discourse when that line or instrument is manipulated electronically.  In Ricercare una melodia, the moment of revelation comes when the electronic material opens out a much wider registral spectrum than that 'naturally' available on the trumpet or oboe.  Something similar happens both in the brief Tombeau de Messiaen, where the interaction of piano and electronics unleashes a torrential, joyously uninhibited commemoration of the French master, and also in Advaya.  Inspired by the Buddhist concept of transcending duality, this enriches the singularity of the solo cello line by a wealth of electronic transformations whose wide expressive range never fractures the music's strongly focused, easily graspable design.

All three of these works have been recorded before, Ricercare una melodia in a version for cello (Etcetera, 7/93), Tombeau de Messiaen on a Sargasso disc which is mainly of Harvey's electroacoustic music, and _Advaya _on a IRCAM release (available from Discovery Records; Adès 20694-2) notable for its inclusion of the large-scale vocal work One Evening - Harvey at his most beguilingly lyrical.  But Harvey enthusiasts with any or all of these discs should still find it difficult to resist this new release, not only for its outstanding recording quality, but for the interest and substance of the programme as a whole.

Cyprès adds two works to the three already mentioned.  In Wheel of Emptiness the reconciliation of opposites so central to Advaya is less explicitly demonstrated, perhaps because of the greater diversity of material involved.  But the disc ends with the most striking evidence of Harvey's versatility.  Death of Light/Light of Death is also included on the Adès disc, in a recording perhaps not quite as rich in atmosphere and colour as this one.  Scored for five performers, without electronics, but with the harpist doubling on tam tam, the work has a Christian rather than a Buddhist theme, since it was written to be performed before Grünewald's harrowing Crucifixion in the Colmar Art Museum.  It offers a powerful response to the painting's combination of catastrophe and transcendence, in music of an intensity and, in the end, ceremonial solemnity which few composers today can match.  With performances of supreme technical assurance, and magnificently lucid sound, even in the most complex interactions between live and electronic textures, this is an outstanding disc in every respect.

Tag : Press

Mentioned in this article
Jonathan Harvey ,IRCAM & From the Ictus Press-Book