CD Review- Music and Vision Daily on Philip Sawyers- Orchestral Music

A new review from Music and Vision Daily for Philip Sawyers’ Cello Concerto, Second Symphony and Concertante for Violin, Piano and Strings on Nimbus Records. Click here to read the whole thing (subscription required). A short sample follows:

“I spent many of my early critical days twiddling my thumbs while one composer after another would try and convince me that in an octave none of the available twelve notes was less equal than another. This was to be music’s ultimate reality, rather than the reductio ad absurdum that my simple mind conceived it to be. The nightmare continued far too long, but I survived sufficiently to sense the approach of dawn. Only recently I have heard at the Royal College of Music two operas by Oliver Rudland, a composer hardly out of his twenties, showing me how the tensions of music could vary as subtly as those of the drama it accompanied.

“And now here is Philip Sawyers with an effortless demonstration that the history of music can proceed in an unbroken line and that music of yesterday can easily accommodate the best products of today. As an ex-cellist myself, I know the lyrical strength of the instrument, its readiness for sardonic humour, and its almost desperate need for sensitive orchestration if the movements of a concerto are to work. If only I still had the technique to master this fine piece, I should start learning it tonight. The opening gives a good idea of the work’s calibre.

“It is somehow satisfying to know that both the Concerto and Symphony No 2 were commissioned by the Sydenham International Music Festival. It is as if the noble spirit of the ancient Crystal Palace still spread its benign influence over local music, stipulating at the same time that the Symphony should be scored for the same forces as Beethoven 7. It is a powerful one-movement work, evolving and recapitulating with a sureness of touch that makes a very cogent argument.

“There is much pleasure in observing with what freedom and resource Sawyers shows passing but fleeting respect for 12-note techniques in both the Symphony and Concertante. That is as it should be. To have piano and violin as soloists in a concerted work is unusual. Haydn and Mendelssohn had shown that it could be done successfully, and Sawyers has also managed a work of great accomplishment. The start could hardly be more compelling.

“This CD reflects great credit on all the performers, but most on a composer previously unknown to me.”

Copyright © 17 August 2014 Robert Anderson,

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

Learn about Kenneth at

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