BRIAN FERNEYHOUGH (b.1943): Liber Scintillarum (ensemble recherche), Plötzlichkeit (Olivia Robinson, Jennifer Adams-Barbaro [sopranos], Cherith Millburn-Fryer [alto], BBC Symphony Orchestra; Martyn Brabbins), Missa Brevis (EXAUDI; James Weeks), La Terre est un Homme (BBC SO; Brabbins).
Catalogue Number: 04T066
Description: This is a very valuable release of music spanning almost a half-century by the original and least repentant complexicist, not least because it includes two of his scarce works for large forces. Plötzlichkeit, from 2006, is a monumental slow movement - in that its underlying pulse is slow - with Ferneyhough's customary layers of interior and surface detail and activity. Despite the apparently fragmentary nature of the material, and its occasionally disorienting quarter-tones, the work achieves a certain monolithic grandeur, and there are some stunning textural moments, like the pulsing brass episode which momentarily recalls the cosmic swirling of the spatially circling climax in Stockhausen's Gruppen, or the moments of utter stasis and calm provided by the beautiful oases of vocalise from three singers integrated into the orchestra. The colossal - and controversial, at the time of its 1979 premiere - La Terre est une homme, inspired by the composer's dream of an alien desert landscape, of which he was reminded by a surreal, complex landscape by Chilean artist Roberto Matta, treats every member of the large orchestra a a soloist, with their own staves in the huge score, at some point in its teeming 13 minutes. The effect is of simultaneously viewing a vast desert in maddening heat and light, and being able to see every grain of sand in grotesquely magnified detail. 2012`s "Book of Sparks" is typically challenging Ferneyhough ensemble fare, requiring superhuman abilities of the players in terms of precise micro-durations and micro-intervals (1024th notes and eighth-tones, if you please). The scintillant fragments of instrumental material, mostly in high register, do indeed seem to be igniting sparks off one another as the music's cascading energy and density gradually diminish in a kind of musical entropy.