ANTHONY BURGESS (1917-1993): Mr W.S. - Ballet Suite for Orchestra, Mr Burgess’s Almanack, Marche pour une révolution 1789-1989.

Catalogue Number: 05R010

Label: Naxos

Reference: 8.573472

Format: CD

Price: $11.98

Description: Now, here's a major find; only this time it's been under our noses all the time, or at least, every time we were in a bookstore (remember bookstores?). Anthony Burgess was a significant, prolific and immensely accomplished composer, but this has been almost entirely overshadowed by the fact that he was one of the greatest English novelists of the twentieth century, whose virtuosic use of the English language is second to none. He always regarded himself as first a composer, and although having failed to establish himself as one early on he turned to letters with great gusto and to great success, he never stopped writing music, and especially in his last two decades produced many works. He was not an innovator in the avant garde sense, but as in his literature he used an encyclopædic understanding of the existing lexicon (all his music is grounded in tonality) in wonderfully clever, original, expressive ways. Mr W.S. was to have been music for a film about Shakespeare, but after that project foundered, Burgess reworked it into this descriptive suite full of memorable themes, lively and unpredictable rhythms and unexpected twists, vividly evoking the Elizabethan era and suggesting its music without copying it. The energetic Marche commemorates the French Revolution with great pomp and circumstance (though the harmony and orchestration lies somewhere between Elgar and Bliss). The Almanack is a lovely example of the cunning way Burgess always stayed a few steps ahead of his readers in his novels. Ostensibly a suite of mid-twentieth century character pieces with a somewhat Bartókian feel, it actually progresses through the twelve intervals available within the octave from semitone to twelfth, January to December. And the main theme is borrowed from Burgess' music for an historical television series, which in turn appears as an 'illustration' in the novel on which the screenplay was based (reminding one of the music and musical references which populate the plays of Mr W.S. himself.). Brown University Orchestra; Paul Phillips.

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