Peter Sheppard Skærved violin
Mihailo Trandafilovski violin
Miyabi Duo
Spectrum Guitar Quartet
Christopher Redgate oboe

métier  msv 28612

Edward Cowie (b.1943) is very much a Renaissance Man. In addition to being a composer of talent, he has expertise in physics, fine arts and Japanese literature. Along with his love of nature, these disparate aspects all appear as inspirations for the five works on this CD. The seven performers listed above are absolute virtuosi. They have no need of me to ratify their brilliance.

The eight movements of ‘Particle Partita’ run through the complete history of particle physics from the originator of the idea of the atom, Democritus (4th Century BC) to the discovery of the Higgs Boson and beyond.

The second work is inspired by Haiku poems, Autumn to Winter, by Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694). The nine movements in Stream and Variations relate to the river Sem in Wiltshire, a favourite walking route of guitarist Julian Bream. The final two pieces are inspired by the paintings of Kandinsky.

The extensive CD booklet has input from Cowie and several of the performers. It helps explain how such apparently unrelated subjects marry together surprisingly well in Cowie’s music.

The two violinists in Particle Partita fire off one another before coming together in the final movement. The movements flow easily together as a unit. The music and the playing are startlingly virtuosic. Peter Sheppard Skærved describes it as ‘coruscating’ and ‘hair-triggered’. Cowie’s style is abstract, possibly beyond mere atonal. His creative musical form comes through as uniquely his own. 

The two guitars in Basho Meditations offer a variety of flavours, at one point even suggesting flamenço. Saki Kato plays solo guitar in Stream and Variations. Her playing creates living suggestions of place and atmosphere. The Guitar Quartet in the first Kandinsky piece is richly exciting. Finally, in Kandinsky’s Oboe Christopher Redgate rejoices in avant-garde touches – breath surges and vocalisations including sneeze-like sounds and strange words in what language? I have no idea. 

Why not let Edward Cowie take you on a journey through musical landscapes that you never imagined could exist. I thought that I had heard everything there was to hear – evidently not!

Review by Alan Cooper