Birds on Fire

Birds on Fire

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Birds on Fire

Released on 29 April 2008

The premier recording of the magnificent Birds on Fire (2001) by Orlando Gough, based on Aaron Appelfeld’s novel Badenheim 1939, and now a mainstay of our current performance repertoire. Also music by the Jewish families of musicians employed by Henry VIII in 1540: Bassanos and Lupos, and music by Salmone Rossi & Leonora Duarte.

If you’re seeking the exotic, listen to tracks 1, 13 and 24. Orlando Gough, best known for his theatre music, composed Birds on Fire in [2001]. This is demanding, wonderfully offbeat music inspired by Ashkenazi Klezmer (more cabaret than camera), which Fretwork brings off with a panache that astonishes and delights. Importantly, it demonstrates the extent to which the viol consort has been circumscribed by its historic “largely amateur” repertoire and suggests that it is capable of far more. Each of the three Gough pieces begins with eerie sounds and is characterised by a kaleidoscope of syncopated ostinati, droll pizzicato asides and sinewy, modal themes conveyed in parallel octaves. You’ll swear you can hear an organ, accordion, clarinet and a saxophone, but you don’t. Fascinating, liberating music!

Julie Anne Sadie, Gramophone

Although subtitled ‘Jewish musicians at the Tudor Court’, there are no exotic surprises in the English 16th and 17th-century pieces here; it was the standard court music of its day. Some are, though, highly inventive, including four finely-wrought six-part fantasias by Thomas Lupo. They’re beautifully played – Fretwork create a richness of sonority which only spot-on mean-tone tuning can deliver. Birds on Fire, is by Orlando Gough (b1953). He coaxes fascinating new sonorities and articulations from the conventional viol consort. The music is hauntingly coloured by reference to klezmer tunes, while the second movement grows over a hypnotic ostinato. A memorable disc.

Performance *****
Recording ****

George Pratt, BBC Music Magazine

Orlando Gough’s Birds on Fire is a three-movement suite inspired by Aaron Appelfeld’s novel Badenheim 1939. Middle-class Jews gather in a well-to-do Austrian resort that, during their stay, becomes a ghetto. Gough’s music, spread over Fretwork’s fine recital, uses kletzmer tunes. It’s both catchy and poignant, the medium of viols lending it an appropriate astringency. Much of the rest of the disc is devoted to Elizabethan and Jacobean viol consort music by members of two émigré dynasties of court musicians, the Lupos and the Bassanos, whose Jewishness was surmised only in 1983. These are as much in the English courtly vein as the anonymous works from the Lumley Part Books and a rich Fantasia by the Dutch-born Philip van Wilder, also recorded here.

Stephen Pettitt, The Sunday Times

Always the unusual from the viol consort Fretwork. Not content with assembling a programme featuring covertly Jewish composers at the Tudor and Stuart courts, they thread through the tracks 24 klezmer-influenced minutes by the contemporary composer Orlando Gough… For music with real meat you need the six selections by Thomas Lupo: sophisticated consort pieces teased out by Fretwork’s agile fingers.

Geoff Brown, The Times



Catalogue number: HMU 907478






Date: March 10, 2013