OLIVER KNUSSEN (b.1952): Symphony No. 2 for Soprano and Orchestra, Op. 7 (Elaine Barry [soprano], London Sinfonietta; Oliver Knussen), Symphony No. 3, Op. 18 (Philharmonia Orchestra; Michael Tilson Thomas), Ophelia Dances Book 1, Op. 13, Coursing for Chamber Orchestra, Op. 17 (both London Sinfonietta; Knussen), Cantata for Oboe and String Trio, Op. 15 (The Nash Ensemble), Trumpets for Soprano and 3 Clarinets, Op. 12 (Linda Hurst [soprano], Michael Collins, Edward Pilinger, Ian Mitchell [clarinets]).
Catalogue Number: 05N069
Reference: D 175
Description: It's very good to have this pioneering disc of early works by the precocious composer-conductor and central figure in British contemporary music, back in the catalogue. Knussen has always excelled at short, highly concentrated works, rigorously, almost obsessively organised so as to contain a wealth of material and argument that belie their compressed dimensions. Both these quarter-hour symphonies - the Second setting the evocative dreamscape poetry of Georg Trakl and Sylvia Plath - illustrate this point; iridescent, constantly evolving textures are the glittering, fluid surface under which variations, palindromes and adaptations of classical forms provide structure and precision. All the pieces are exuberantly inventive, and approachable despite their teeming complexity (though the latter is never gratuitous, and moments of calm repose and stabilising centers of harmonic gravity are generously provided). Original 1984 Unicorn-Kanchana release.