1. Birtwistle: Chamber Works / Nash Ensemble - ArkivMusic

Birtwistle: Chamber Works / Nash Ensemble

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Born in 1934, Sir Harrison Birtwistle is one of the leading European figures in contemporary music. He first made his mark in 1965 with the decet Tragoedia, a work whose ambience of something at once ancient and modern, with stark juxtapositions of strident violence and fragile lyricism, presented a sound and sensibility quite new in British music. The Nash Ensemble was formed around the same time and over the decades that have followed, a close relationship has developed between Birtwistle and the ensemble. Among the several commissions made by the ensemble are the closing two movements of the Oboe Quartet as well as the Duet for Eight Strings, described by the composer as ‘a string quartet for two players’. Composed in 2018, the Duet is the most recent work on the disc, which also includes the Trio for violin, cello and piano from 2011. The only work of an older date is Pulse Sampler from 1981, originally for oboe and claves, but here heard in a recent version for a more varied array of percussion.


All the music here retains a freshness and focus belying the composer’s age; it’s a long way from a mere rehashing of familiar ways of doing things. In strong contrast to its companions, the single-movement Piano Trio sounds unusually expansive and resonant, perhaps in conscious tribute to its dedicatee, Birtwistle’s student friend Alexander Goehr – as committed a follower of Schoenberg as Birtwistle was of Stravinsky. But the relish with which the composer addresses generic traditions doesn’t prevent him from adopting a manner that can suggest parody as much as celebration. The three players engage in a drama that involves multiple roles, and this meticulous performance offers musical play-acting – sometimes melodramatic, sometimes restrained – as the finest of fine arts.

-- Gramophone

The opening work, 2011's Trio for Piano, Violin & Cello, is played with assurance and elan. The other works on this album - the Duet for 8 Strings from 2018, Pulse Sampler for Oboe and Percussion in a version also from 2018, and the Oboe Quartet from 2009-10 - demonstrate that the modernism of the early and mid 20th century is still viable in the 21st. The members of the Nash Ensemble provide stylish and lively performances of this important composer's music.

-- Music for Several Instruments

Product Description:

  • Release Date: January 07, 2022

  • Catalog Number: BIS-2561

  • UPC: 7318599925615

  • Label: BIS

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Period: 20th Century

  • Composer: Harrison Birtwistle

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Nash Ensemble


  1. Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano

    Composer: Harrison Birtwhistle

    Ensemble: Nash Ensemble

  2. Duet for Eight Strings

    Composer: Harrison Birtwhistle

    Ensemble: Nash Ensemble

  3. Pulse Sampler (version for Oboe and Percussion)

    Composer: Harrison Birtwhistle

    Ensemble: Nash Ensemble

  4. Oboe Quartet

    Composer: Harrison Birtwhistle

    Ensemble: Nash Ensemble