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.
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