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Julian Anderson: In lieblicher Bläue – Alleluia – The Stations of the Sun
Carolin Widmann (violin), London Philharmonic Choir, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski (conductor)
Recording: Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London (December 2013, March 2014, March 2015) – 54’ 26
London Philharmonic Orchestra LPO 0089 – Booklet in English

Julian Anderson is a prolific composer of colorful, often powerful works, several of which are becoming repertoire staples. This disc features two world premiere recordings—In lieblicher Bläue and Alleluia—to mixed results. The Stations of the Sun has already received a top-notch recording on Ondine (BBC Symphony Orchestra/Knussen), but an alternative interpretation of this attractive work is certainly welcome.

In lieblicher Bläue is a 20-minute “poem for violin and orchestra” that doesn’t quite hang together throughout its duration. Compared to the other two works on the disc, it is quite gestural, reflecting its fragmentary Hölderlin inspiration. Anderson’s three-page description of the work tries too hard to act as a road map and, while Carolin Widmann has no problems with any of the solo writing, it is easy to hear this as a somewhat anonymous concertante piece.

Fortunately, the disc is saved by the other two works. Alleluia is simply stunning and rewards repeated listening. An underlying darkness throughout the work provides consistent tension against the affirmative text, which at times turns the music brightly optimistic. Anderson writes effectively for the choir, combining elements of Debussy’s Sirènes with Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. The orchestra writing responds to the text, and the work’s climax is truly spine-tingling. This is a wonderful addition to the choral repertoire, given an equally wonderful first recording.

In four continuous sections, Anderson’s The Stations of the Sun is an encapsulation of the composer’s most effective writing. Unlike In lieblicher Bläue, its opening pointillistic gestures organically congeal into an engaging musical discourse. The works’ explosive, tintinnabulary climax is thrilling, and Jurowski leads convincingly from opening gesture to peroration. There is magnificent playing throughout, including gorgeously resonant and rich string sonority and bold, well-blended brass.

Those following this composer’s career, or interested in strong British orchestral and choral music, should confidently invest in this recording.

Marcus Karl Maroney




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