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work’s 2013 revision, it remains an outstanding achievement. Spontaneously eloquent as well as powerfully dramatic, it provides Alban Gerhardt with every chance to display his virtuosity, not only in affecting melodic lines, but also in more forceful and assertive ideas. The orchestral writing is perfectly judged to actively engage with and complement the soloist, and the reflective ending is one of the most memorable in the contemporary concerto repertory.

Šu is an Egyptian mythological term for air; and Chin’s 2009 composition features the Chinese mouth organ, the sheng, not to indulge in pseudo-exoticism but to explore the potential for interaction between this instrument and an orchestra using materials deriving very directly from the European expressionist tradition. The music inevitably acquires a ritualistic aura but there is also plenty of visceral excitement in a performance that is supremely well integrated and no less well recorded. A highly successful CD. Arnold Whittall (November 2014)

Grime Virgaa. Into the faded airb. Clarinet Concertoc. A Cold Springb. Everyone Sangd. Night Songsd. Near Midnighta c Lynsey Marsh cl Hallé bcSoloists / a Sir Mark Elder, bcdJamie Phillips NMC Debut Discs F NMCD199 (71’ • DDD)

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In the six years since she first came to prominence, Helen Grime (b1981) has gone on to write several further works for orchestra and ensemble, so making this disc a more than usually inclusive overview of her output to date. Virga has had a number of high-profile hearings, underlining the resourcefulness with which its initially intricate textures open out to reveal an unadorned violin line whose evolution also brings a transformed reprise of earlier material. This process of change and return is further refined in the string sextet Into  the faded air, with its dextrous interplay of duos and trios, while continuous development cuts across the three movements of the Clarinet Concerto with its improvisatory central cadenza leading to an otherworldly finale.

A concertante aspect is more obliquely evident in A Cold Spring, with horn emerging as first among equals in the luminous central movement, whereas the remaining pieces are all through-composed designs that draw on larger forces. Most impressive is Near Midnight, with its

Gramophone awards shortList 2015

strangely amorphous activity – made audible through the assured orchestral handling – as amply evokes the fatalistic poem by DH Lawrence that inspired it.

The performances are a tribute to the dedication of the Hallé players and have all been recorded with the spaciousness and immediacy which this music needs. A strong recommendation. Richard Whitehouse (December 2014)

D Matthews Symphony No 7, Op 109a. Vespers, Op 66b b Katie Bray mez bMatthew Long ten b The Bach Choir; Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra / aJohn Carewe; bDavid Hill Dutton Epoch M CDLX7305 (69’ • DDD)

David Matthews’s Seventh Symphony of 2008-09 is a richly inspired, urgently communicative 20-minute canvas in a single movement that looks to the example of Sibelius’s Seventh. Like that 20th-century masterpiece, it’s a score of slumbering organic power and enormous cumulative impact, whose awesomely inevitable progress incorporates elements of rugged beauty, tender lyricism and eruptive force – the closing pages resound with an exuberant, overwhelmingly ‘right’ sense of homecoming.

Inspiration also runs consistently high in the imposing Vespers (1993-96) for mezzo-soprano, tenor, SATB choir and orchestra. Here is a work firmly in the lineage of RVW, Holst, Howells, Tippett, Leighton and Mathias (yes, it’s that good!) which incorporates some of the Latin texts also set by Monteverdi in his Vespers in addition to three poems from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Das Stundenbuch (‘The Book of the Hours’), the last of which (‘All will grow great and powerful again’) caps the whole edifice in nobly affirmative and compassionate fashion. Matthews’s 45-minute oratorio possesses a wealth of memorable invention, exploratory zeal and emotional charge; for tangible evidence, make haste to the second movement, ‘Alma redemptoris mater’, where an incendiary orchestral scherzo leads to some heart-stoppingly lovely choral writing; or sample those swaggering dance rhythms of the fourth movement, ‘Laudate pueri’ (an infectiously joyous treatment of Psalm 113). A mightily impressive find, make no mistake – and another stellar performance, too, this time under the watchful supervision of David Hill. Andrew Achenbach (June 2014)

Nørgård Symphonies – No 1, ‘Sinfonia austera’, Op 13; No 8 Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Sakari Oramo Dacapo F Í 6 220574 (57’ • DDD/DSD)

There is a gulf of some 55 years between Nørgård’s first and latest symphonies. The one nails its colours to the masts of Sibelius’s First Symphony and Holmboe’s Eighth, those composers being respectively the idol and the teacher of Nørgård in his early twenties. The other is fully emancipated from those and any other influences.

And yet, as has often been pointed out, the ideas of Nordic light against the background of darkness, of metamorphosis as a principle of life as well as of art, and of hard-won coalescence into fundamental acoustic properties (not excluding ‘tonal’ triads), are constant factors in an output as astonishing for its consistency as for its range. The Eighth Symphony may be relatively genial by comparison with its predecessors, including the gritty First, but it is still the work of a composer obsessed with the elemental qualities of musical movement and shape. From the outset, cascading scalic motion is balanced against lines that push towards the upper limits of instrumental ranges, while other shapes anchor the middle of the texture, without ever quite declaring themselves as ‘themes’. The gambit is familiar from several of Nørgård’s earlier symphonies (certainly Nos 3, 4 and 6), and as there every moment feels full of potential, the product of a fertile imagination that seemingly grows in direct proportion to its deployment.

Like the First Symphony, the Eighth is in three movements, the first being the longest and densest. The difference is that the finale of the Eighth, after a return to the first movement’s state of constant flux, culminates in a Lento visionario. Here it doesn’t seem over-imaginative to posit Sibelius as the godfather, especially where the opening cascades are transfigured.

Great to see this superabundantly imaginative music being taken up by an institution as traditionally minded as the Vienna Philharmonic. Honours are even with the Danish RSO and Segerstam in the First Symphony, but the premiere recording of No 8 is a must-have. Dacapo’s recording is as beautiful as the Vienna Phil’s playing. David Fanning (August 2014) Sym No 1 – selected comparison:  Danish Nat RSO, Segerstam (CHAN) CHAN9450

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