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  CD: Julian Anderson – Book of Hours (NMC D121)  red5 at 16:40 on 17 April 2007

Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (Oliver Knussen)
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (Martyn Brabbins, Sakari Oramo)
City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus (Simon Halsey)

Book of Hours, a 2006 release from NMC, can be seen as an evaluation, or documentation, of Julian Anderson’s time as Composer-in-Association to the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (2001 – 2005). This enviable post exposes the appointed composer to not only the considerable forces of the CBSO but also the highly skilled resources of the smaller Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG) and the amateur, yet able, City of Birmingham Symphony Chorus.

The disc presents five works: Eden (2005, for orchestra), Imagin’d Corners (2001-2, for five horns and orchestra), Four American Choruses (2002-3, for chorus), Symphony (2003, for orchestra) and Book of Hours (2004, for ensemble and electronics). Throughout all the works there are exquisite textures and orchestration that, coupled with strong harmonic and melodic development, create a strong sense of cohesion in terms of sound worlds. The most striking feature of Anderson’s music is his ability to work with simple melodic ideas, develop them and then unashamedly allow them to re-appear in their most simple and melodic forms. This happens to great effect in the closing bars of Imagin’d Corners when all five horns join in a jubilant, unison, song. There are fleeting moments of Anderson’s music where one thinks of other composers, for example Takemitsu, Bartok, and Messiaen, but Anderson’s style is a marriage of Western tradition and folk technique which creates a highly individual voice (a cliché I know but nevertheless true in this instance). Of particular note is the strength of choral writing in the Four American Choruses and the sensitive use of non-tempered tuning throughout his work.

Conveniently, the strongest work on the CD is the last that Anderson composed during his residency with the CBSO: Eden. The linear notes suggest that ‘for Anderson [Eden] is less an emblem of escape or retreat than a first nature, a state of grace before which the music stands in homage . . . his Eden is not a place from which man has been banished so much as an attitude which we might hope to recover’. Eden is a work of extreme beauty from beginning to end. The pure sound of the opening melody, which moves between solo viola and cello in non-tempered pitch, senza vibrato, seems to come from a better time yet the work builds into joyful and evocative textures that hint at a return to this time.

  Re: CD: Julian Anderson – Book of Hours (NMC D121)  Christopher Tin at 17:09 on 18 April 2007

Great! I can't wait to hear this!

I studied orchestration with Julian at the Royal College of Music. The man is hands down one of the most brilliant people I've ever met.

  Re: CD: Julian Anderson – Book of Hours (NMC D121)  at385 at 17:16 on 18 April 2007

I've listened to this CD and agree with a lot of what red5 says, Book of Hours (the piece itself) is a fantastic piece.

Anderson is a very fine composer and, as christopher says, an interesting character!!

  Re: CD: Julian Anderson – Book of Hours (NMC D121)  Team Gaughan at 12:56 on 19 April 2007

I shall try and have a listen to this disc, the small amount I know of Andersons work I really like- wonderful colours from instrumental combinations and a strong and exciting drive.