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Turnage - Gramophone - April 2012

25 April 2012
Richard Whitehouse

Post-millennium Turnage in chamber and vocal mode.

Although his output has latterly been notable for large-scale orchestral and theatrical works, chamber music has never been absent from Mark-Anthony Turnage's composing and this (download-only) release collates several of those written during 2004-10. Most extended is A Constant Obsession, a song-cycle anthologising five English poems in a sequence unfolding from the anticipation to the extinguishing of love. Nicky Spence is limpidly expressive (in a vocal part written for Mark Padmore), and the only proviso might be a certain uniformity in approach across the cycle as a whole which reins in something of the texts' emotional acuity.

The instrumental works make a finely contrasted miscellany. Three for Two consists of three 'wishes' with the jazzy impetus of those either side framing one whose wistful inwardness might not be out of place in later Frank Bridge. Four Chants also draws on 'popular' idioms, imbued with ironic detachment that goes well with the laconic interplay of violin and piano, while A Slow Pavane commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Beaux Arts Trio in music whose engaging approach to a difficult medium would have been enhanced by inclusion of the two slightly earlier pieces with which it constitutes a triptych. Finally, Grazioso! Recalls the rhythmic impetus of Turnage's early music in its direct though in no sense slavish homage to the music of Led Zeppelin. Committed performances from Chamber Domaine, definitely an ensemble from whom much can be expected, under the incisive leadership of Thomas Kemp, who also provides the informative contextual notes.

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