EDWARD COWIE (b.1943): 24 Bird Portraits for Violin and Piano.
Catalogue Number: 01X053
Reference: msv 28619
Description: Music's nature-painter par excellence conceived this large cycle of 24 pieces during the Covid lockdown, when on country walks, the only outings available at the time, he visited "wild woodland, wetland and pastures. The birdsong, in the first spring of Covid, was stunning- the more so because we didn’t meet anyone else on our walks – the roads were almost silent ... At times, we felt transported to some kind of English pastoral dreamtime … a ‘procession’ (or should I say, ‘fly-past’), of British birds came to fill my head with fresh and refreshing inspiration." This extraordinarily imaginative and diverse sequence of pieces depict extraordinarily vivid scenes, wild and untamed; in the mind's eye a sudden noisy, frantic flapping of wings disturbing the mirrored surface of a crepuscular lake, or graceful wheeling and swooping over a verdant landscape, or the stratospherically pitched hyperactivity of the skylark "after a thunderstorm on Salisbury Plain" (the mysterious site of Stonehenge) are depicted with the same precision and strength of emotional response as in the composer’s beautiful illustrated graphic sketched notes. Each piece refers, to a greater or lesser extent, to some aspect of the birds' cries, though often without "notated imitation" or Messiaenic "transcription", and always in a richly three-dimensional depiction of their characteristic habitat; although the cycle follows no sequence of keys, there is nonetheless a sense of tonal progression through the key centers of the pieces. The music conjures in turn chilling, bittern-haunted gloom; the random, skittering flight of a panicked pheasant and its raucous squawks; the chittering of a noisy group of starlings, but also their fluid murmuration on the wing; the eerie calls and muted gliding of owls; the skirling call of the song thrush; busily bustling nesting wrens; abrupt twittering of a finch in the branches of misty hedgerows; and a hunted sense of foreboding, punctuated by the desolate cry of the osprey out of the lowering mists. A fantastically vivid musical illuminated bestiary, or aviary. Peter Sheppard Skærved (violin), Roderick Chadwick (piano).