Saunders: Skin; To cancel; Breathless review – important music, superbly delivered | Classical music

Album cover for Skin.

For over 30 years, NMC has staunchly championed a wide range of contemporary British composers, but so far has never released a record dedicated to the works of Rebecca Saunders. Over the past two decades, she has established herself as one of the leading figures of European music of our time. But perhaps because London-born Saunders lives in Berlin, she still receives too few performances in Britain. There has only been one of his works, for example, in the main series of the BBC Proms, and that was in 2009 – although his music was regularly featured at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

This superb disc should win even more admirers at Saunders, as it includes one of his finest achievements: Skin for soprano and ensemble, which was composed in 2016 for Juliet Fraser, who is the outstanding vocalist here with Klangforum Wien . The text is Saunders’ own, incorporating an excerpt from Molly Bloom’s last monologue in Ulysses. (James Joyce, along with Samuel Beckett, has been a regular ingredient in Saunders’ music). , sometimes intensely fragile, sometimes furiously forged.

Like Skin, the other two works here – Void for two percussionists and orchestra, from 2014, and the string quartet Unbreathed from 2017 – are just as finicky in their attention to minute textural and tuning detail, but they inhabit different worlds. completely different music. Void is music of stark contrasts, pounding menace in the bass, and delicate microtonal hazes, as the quartet chart a path from violent confinement to silent final resolution. It’s all important music, superbly delivered.

The other choice of the week

Also new this month on NMC, a recording of two works by Richard Cauton. It includes the impressively held orchestral piece Ik zeg: NU, inspired by a family story written by a Dutch relative of the composer and performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Sakari Oramo. But the disc is dominated by a superb interpretation of the baritone Marcus Farnsworth and the pianist Huw Watkins of the 40 minutes La Terra Impareggiabile, decorations of the Sicilian poet Salvatore Quasimodo. Causton assembled the cycle between 1996 and 2007, then revised it four years ago to create a beautifully sweeping sequence of declamatory power and lyrical intimacy.


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