The Sunday Times, Paul Driver
THIS DISC from an enterprising new label surveys Birtwistle’s wind and solo piano music, from Refrains and Choruses for flute, oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon (1957) – his opus one – to Five Distances (1992) for the same combination, and reveals how great and how little is the distance he has come. Refrains, with its savoured dissonances, north-country assertiveness, and chunky ritual structure, is already pure Birtwistle though a tyro piece. Five Distances calls on a far more cosmopolitan technique, but makes clear that this is not a composer given to stylistic revolutions. The attractive (flute) Duets for Storab, suave Verses for clarinet and piano, and ingenious An Interrupted Endless Melody for oboe and piano are among the 12 mostly rare items, all of them well performed.