Birtwistle: Angel Fighter, In Broken Images & Virelai (CD)

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Birtwistle: Angel Fighter, In Broken Images & Virelai (CD)

Harrison Birtwistle (b. 1934) is internationally regarded as one of the most striking and individual composers today. His unique works run the full gamut from large-scale operatic and orchestral canvases, rich in mythical and primitivist power, to intimate chamber works, contemplative in their lyricism. Described by The Guardian as 'hauntingly powerful', Birtwistle's cantata Angel Fighter vividly explores the Biblical story of the struggle between man and divine being from the Book of Genesis. It is, however, the physical fight between Jacob and the Angel more than religious significance that interests Birtwistle. Quartertones and string harmonics enhance the otherworldly descent of the Angel from Heaven. Librettist Stephen Plaice makes clever use of Enochian, an angelic language 'discovered' by the 16th c. alchemist and Queen Elizabeth I adviser, John Dee. Broken Images, inspired by Gabrieli's multi-choir canzonas, splits the ensemble into four groups (woodwind, brass, strings and percussion) and takes its title from the Robert Graves poem. Birtwistle continues to draw influence from the past in Virelai (Sus une fontayne), a rhythmically intricate realization of a piece by Johannes Ciconia, who flourished in the late Middle Ages, around the time that Chaucer was writing his Canterbury Tales.

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