Tuesday, August 08, 2006

This new composer has done nothing finer

Julian Anderson's (left) new piece contains some of the most engaging music he has ever written. Heaven Is Shy of Earth is a radiant cantata for mezzo-soprano, chorus and orchestra, which had its world premiere at the Proms. The piece is an heir to the British choral tradition. (Anderson prepared for it by singing with the London Philharmonic Choir.)

But it's also much more than that. Setting texts from the Latin Mass, the Psalms and poems by Emily Dickinson, the work is a rapturous meditation on the optimism of Dickinson's vision: that heaven should envy earth the wonders of the natural world. The shimmering soundworld of the work is embodied by the haunting flugelhorn solo with which it opened in Andrew Davis's performance with the BBCSO, introducing the chorus's rapt Kyrie Eleison. Mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager relished the lyrical brilliance of her solo movement, but it was the choral passages that impressed the most, especially the Sanctus. With beautifully heard microtones and dense layers of orchestral sonority, Anderson creates a texture of teeming complexity, building to an impassioned "Osanna". For all the quiescence of the concluding Agnus Dei, the final impression of Heaven Is Shy of Earth is a reflective but ecstatic joy. Anderson has done nothing finer.


Tom Service hits the nail on the head with his review of the premiere of Julian Anderson's Heaven is Shy of Earth in today's Guardian, and I must confess it slipped under the radar in my Proms previews. Fortunately I caught the performance, and it was one of the few surprises so far in this year's Proms. Julian Anderson ws born on 1967, and studied composition with John Lambert, Alexander Goehr and Tristan Murail. He has worked closely with a number of orchestras include two commissions for the London Sinfonietta. He is currently Professor of Composition at Harvard University. Follow this link for a full biography.

* Listen to Heaven is Shy of Earth until 12 August via BBC Listen Again

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2 comments:

Pliable said...

Garth Trinkl advices me that Julian Anderson's first CD is an Ondine release coming out on August 22,

Khorovod / Stations of the Sun / Crazed Moon by Anderson

on the Ondine label.

Pliable said...

Here is a review of that Julian Anderson CD - http://arts.guardian.co.uk/critic/review/0,,1836515,00.html