skip to Main Content

A young ensemble of considerable merit

Gramophone, Arnold Whittall

This satisfying compilation spans more than 40 years of Birtwistle, from a piano piece written in his mid-teens (Oockooing Bird) to Five Distances for wind quintet (1992), which foreshadows the capriciousness and dramatic urgency of the opera which followed close on its heels, The Second Mrs Kong.

Anyone who believes that Birtwistle’s music has always been the same should play Linoi (1968) immediately after the rather impersonal Refrains and Choruses for wind quintet (1957). Written for clarinet and a very sparingly used piano, Linoi has all Birtwistle’s archetypal lyric melancholy, and the attempts to escape from that melancholy, although futile, have great dramatic force. Not all the later works are on this level: for example, An Interrupted Endless Melody (1991) sustains a tone of plaintive lyricism and, despite sharply pointed piano punctuations of the oboe melody, it seems almost aimless as a result, especially when all three versions are played. But it is the most extended work, Five Distances, whose strongly characterised material and resourcefully evolving form reveal Birtwistle at his finest. This performance does it justice.

…most of the miniatures on this new release are not currently available elsewhere, and the Galliard Ensemble versions, recorded with pinpoint clarity, can be warmly recommended.

It’s particularly good to find the smaller labels turning their attention to Birtwistle’s earlier chamber pieces, which are all-too-rarely heard today.

You may also like to see...
Excellent playing, well-balanced and full of character

Gramophone, Geoffrey Norris

The glittering talent that is the Galliard Ensemble

What’s on in London, Duncan Hadfield

Performed with assurance and flair

BBC Music Magazine, Anthony Burton

These will become reference performances

O Publico, Teresa Cascudo

Excellent performances, highly characterful, firmly shaped and dramatic

New York Times, Paul Griffiths

They have technique, style and high spirits in spades

Time Out, Martin Hoyle

Immaculate performances … a pure delight … unreservedly recommended

MusicWeb International, Hubert Culot

Demands that were easily met

The Times

Superb sound

Richard Whitehouse

Excellently played

BBC Music Magazine, Nicholas Williams

One of the highlights

Paul Conway, The Independent

Stunning music and extraordinary playing


The Observer, Edward Bhesania

Well performed

The Sunday Times, Paul Driver

The performances are simply breath-taking

Gramophone, Andrew Achenbach

Endlessly fascinating

The Guardian, Andrew Clements

Incisive, confident and well-tuned

BBC Music Magazine, Anthony Burton

Excellent ensemble playing and vivid recording.

Classical Music on the Web UK, Peter Grahame Woolf

Galliard Ensemble
Like angels sent from heaven

Paul Patterson

Beautiful, delicate and fluent playing

Aberdeen Press and Journal, Alan Cooper

A highly talented wind quintet

West Somerset Free Press, Trevor L Sharpe

Galliard Ensemble
Immaculately prepared

Seen & Heard, Peter Graham Woolf

Back To Top