John Casken’s orchestral music is the focus of this disc on the NMC label. The music is monumental in breadth and vision, and makes for enjoyable listening.
Sophia Jaffé’s performance of the Violin Concerto of 1995 is full-bodied and emotive, as she negotiates the solo part’s challenging angularity. Jaffe’s violin sings through the work’s rhapsodic moments, while the final movement calls for some thrillingly fast passagework.
The Concerto for Orchestra of 2007 is the freshest-sounding work on the disc. It has a more vibrant, brutal character, and offers a highly variegated colour experience. Following a two-movement plan, it demonstrates the impressive capabilities of the Hallé, providing numerous moments for the individual players to shine.
The closing work, the four-movement tone poem Orion over Farne (1984) is programmatic and depicts the trials of the mythic hunter, Orion. The music is vivid and rich, especially in the elegiac final movement, which depicts the fallen Orion as he is placed amongst the stars by the gods.
Casken’s music speaks with a discordant, quasi-expressionist language. There are hints of Berg’s vocabulary, and at times the music sounds more mid-twentieth century than late. But the drama of the programmatic works is effective and riveting stuff, and the vibrant approach to orchestration, allows the Hallé to show off its versatility.