The title work Jonathan Dove’s new Signum disk, In Damascus, is the composer’s response to contemporary events in Syria. Written for tenor and string quartet it is a haunting collection of eleven short movements, each economically constructed in his post-minimalist idiom. It is presented with, Out of Time, for string quartet, written in memory of a dead husband, which is by turns lively and elegiac; and his expansive Piano Quintet.
NMC have started releasing works in their New Music Biennial project, these being: Winestead by Gavin Bryars, Ceumannan – Footsteps 2 by Anne Martin and Jason Singh, A Journey with the Giants of Jazz by Peter Edwards and Bethia by Daniel Elms. Not so contemporary, but certainly worthy of a look, is their collection of string chamber music works by Imogen Holst, a deleted album originally released on the Court Lane Music label. As they point out, one of NMC’s missions is to rescue these types of recordings, and there could hardly be a more appropriate composer, since Holst was not only a significant figure in her own right, but her Holst foundation helped to created the NMC label.
If this kind of neglected British repertoire is your thing, also check out two releases this month on Lyrita. There is a disk of Rubbra instrumental music that comprises his Sinfonia Concertante op.38, Prelude and Fugue on a theme of Cyril Scott and his Violin Concerto Op. 103. He also appears as a pianist, performing Cyril Scott’s Consolation. I also dipped into Daniel Jones’s Symphonies Nos. 2 and 11. Jones is a familiar figure to Welsh musicians. Growing up I remember we had a few scratchy records of his music at home, including his Sonata for Unaccompanied Kettledrums. I think this last piece especially had left me with the idea that his style was austere and forbidding. Far from it—whilst certainly serious utterances, these symphonies are bursting with engaging ideas.
A double trio of disks to finish. On Naxos there is instrumental music by American George Tsontakis; Lori Laitman’s opera The Scarlet Letter, David Mason’s libretto an adaptation of the original Hawthorne novel; and a collection of choral music from Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds. On Wergo, meanwhile, are two albums of string quartets, one from Wolfgang Rihm, the other by Helmut Zapf; and a collection of seven chamber works by Milica Djordjević, headed by the string quartet The Death of the Star-Knower.