Chimes and gentle winds open A Celestial Map of the Sky – the title track on this disc by British-American composer Tarik O’Regan – before the Hallé, led by Sir Mark Elder, is joined by the choir. The luminous opening soon gives way to powerful, driving intensity, O’Regan setting extracts of poetic texts (by Walt Whitman, Mahmood Jamal and more) that reflect his response to a pair of woodcuts – star charts – by Albrecht Dürer. Haunting vocal meditations are entwined with a glittering, astral score.
Jamie Philips conducts the Hallé in the remaining works. O’Regan takes the Adagio of JS Bach’s third Violin Sonata (BWV 1005) as his jumping off point in Latent Manifest. Solo violin is joined by harp and percussion, O’Regan extrapolating Bach’s quadruple-stops into a whorl of vivid orchestral colour and sizzling rhythms.
Both Raï and Chaâbi (which was commissioned for the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s 2012 tour) derive from O’Regan’s memories of childhood visits to relatives in Algeria and Morocco. Raï is full of fierce strings, rhythmic drumming and bright momentum from the Hallé, while shifting string textures in Chaâbi create a reflective mood.
The finale is Fragments from Heart of Darkness, a dramatic orchestral suite extracted from O’Regan’s opera based on the Conrad novel. The suite pulses with energy and plunges into tenebrous depths – a fitting climax to this journey through O’Regan’s orchestral works.