EMILY HOWARD (b.1979): Magnetite for Orchestra, Mesmerism for Piano and Orchestra, Solar for Orchestra (Alexandra Dariescu [piano], Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra; Andrew Gourlay), Afference for String Quartet (Elias String Quartet), Leviathan for Baritone Saxophone and Percussion (scapegoat), Threnos for Mezzo-Soprano and Bass (Lucy Goddard, Simone Whiteley).
Catalogue Number: 09S074
Description: Another member of the current generation of impressive younger British composers increasingly gaining prominence (Howard has a piece in this year's Proms, and is regularly commissioned by major orchestras). With a background in science and mathematics, her pieces are, not surprisingly, rigorously organised, but in this era of post-academic composition it is the sense of wonderment, the new mythic boundaries of science that energise her powerfully communicative works. Magnetite, Solar and Mesmerism are all inspired by the mysterious energy of magnetism, in two monumental tone poems and an elusive, intense piano concerto. There is a general shift away from obvious tonality in the later works; the brooding soundscapes of Magnetite recall late Sibelius at his most austere, though this is by no means absent from the more recent pieces. The works almost feel programmatic, in the way that polarized elements of structure and orchestration interact at first as forces in inexorable opposition, then in a peaceful resolution of confluent energies. The substantial string quartet borrows its impetus from biological phenomena of the nervous system, in highly original textures of extreme contrasts, the acoustic equivalent of neural impulses which finally coalesce into a consonant image.