Marcus Blunt: Orchestral Works

review blunt x1 cong

The last album we reviewed with a celestial image on the front was from Vyacheslav Artyomov, a serious Russian who writes epic music. His view of the universe was big and scary; space is infinite and you’re a puny human.

Blunt’s title piece, Aspects of Saturn uses as its inspiration Saturnus. He is the Roman god of agriculture, and in astrology represents traits including ambition and aspiration, so it’s all more human and manageable. As indeed is this excellent CD: it tackles big themes without being intimidating and while decidedly modern has none of that startling modernity about it, keeping both feet in the traditional and harmonious camp. We’ve had it on repeat all week and we’ve never tired, as it starts to get as familiar as an old slipper.

The opening piece is his Piano Concerto, in three movements. The first movement opens with a five-note theme on brass and sounds a bit modern but then it calms down to piano and strings. After that it’s an energetic piece; one of the appeals of the CD is how full of life it all is.

Aspects of Saturn is the title piece and begins a little ethereally, later developing into “ecstasy” as the sleeve notes have it, and it’s followed by the witty Concertino For Bassoon and String Orchestra, a playful piece that has its roots in a composition called Lorenzo The Much-Travel’d Clown.

The closing piece is the strongest part on the CD, despite the collection being named for track four. The four-movement Symphony No2 was originally a “substantial piece” for the Wigton Festival as a chamber piece (clarinet, bassoon, horn, violins, viola, cello and double bass) and Blunt later re-scored it for a scored for a “modest-sized orchestra” as the sleeve notes say (no trombones, tuba, or percussion other than timpani). Though written in 2002 it could pass as an older piece to an average listener, due to its traditional feel.

Blunt is well worth investigating, a modern composer with an old-school sound and never off-putting. The players are Murray McLachlan on piano, Lesley Wilson on bassoon, and the Manchester Camerata (conducted by Stephen Threlfall).

Out now on Metier, MSV28570

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