1. Cowie: Bird Portraits / Chadwick, Skærved
  2. Cowie: Bird Portraits / Chadwick, Skærved

Cowie: Bird Portraits / Chadwick, Skærved

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Edward Cowie is one of the most individual and notable voices in contemporary music and considered by many to be the greatest living composer directly inspired by the natural world. He has worked for over 40 years writing music in response to landscapes and the voices of creatures. In this new cycle of 24 ‘sonic portraits’ of different British birds from 4 distinctive habitats, Cowie has drawn even closer to composing music that not so much imitates nature, but that – after much study and extensive field-work - has led to new music with highly original treatments of the relationships between the bird singers and where and how they sing. This album will be followed in early 2022 by a companion (music for flute and piano) featuring birds of Australia entitled ‘Where Song was Born’. This is a major addition of importance to the contemporary chamber repertoire and will benefit from the success and glowing reviews of previous Cowie albums. Peter Sheppard Skærved and Roderick Chadwick are at the highest level of musical achievement and are champions of the best contemporary composers, while Skaerved is also renowned as a musical historian and writer. His continuing series of ‘The Great Violins’ recordings and other early music for the instrument are testament to his enormous depth of knowledge and the innate musicality which also inspires the magical performances on ‘Bird Portraits’. The artists have substantial followings online and in real life and Skærved in particular has strong links to institutions such as the Library of Congress.


The genesis of Edward Cowie’s’ Bird Portraits was the enforced isolation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Luckily Edward and his artist wife Heather live in a stunning part of the country. The “permitted” exercise took them to the wonderland of the neighbourhood of Morecambe Bay. Cowie writes: “…only a short walk – less than 10 minutes in any direction, we could explore wild woodland, wetland and pastures. The birdsong, in the first spring of Covid, was stunning - the more so because we didn’t meet anyone else on our walks – the roads were almost silent, and the skies were devoid of vapour trails.” Hearing and seeing these birds inspired Cowie to compose the present piece. He explains, “slowly and with a delicious inexorability, a ‘procession’ (or should I say, ‘fly-past’), of British birds came to fill my head with fresh and refreshing inspiration.”

The resulting work consists of 24 Bird Portraits. Not all were seen in Morecambe Bay: the composer has had a lifelong interest in our feathered friends and has tracked them down in many UK locations. Over Cowie’s career, a quarter of his musical compositions allude to birds - either implicitly or explicitly.

I am not convinced that the general listener to Bird Portraits will be aware of the intellectual superstructure of this music. A cursory hearing will reveal it to be all about birds; the relationship to their unique landscape may be a bit harder to divine, but this is no problem, as the work can be enjoyed “absolutely.”

The playing by both partners of this violin/piano duo is revelatory. Engineer Jonathan Haskell has provided the wonderfully sensitive and always vivid recording.

– MusicWeb International

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: MSV28619

  • UPC: 809730861925

  • Label: Metier

  • Composer: Edward Cowie

  • Performer: Peter Sheppard Skaerved, Roderick Chadwick