“I come from a high-modernist classical music training. If you wrote a single tonal chord, people would mock you,” reflected Max Richter. “I deliberately set out to be at plainspoken as possible.” The Blue Notebooks, first released in 2003, was the first major statement of Richter’s popular defiance.

Recorded against the background of the Iraq war, this milestone album was a personal meditation on power and politics. Far from a protest album, however, The Blue Notebooks contains a suite of contemplative performances. Richter’s now-familiar style combines simple (‘plainspoken’) chamber compositions punctuated by electronics and narration by Tilda Swinton. In 2003, it was rightly described as “one of the most affecting and universal contemporary classical records in recent memory”.

An additional disc is not overly substantial, but does contain a number of recordings of interest – although the Iconography remix is perhaps too aesthetically distinct to work here. Three of six additional tracks revisit the album’s most popular composition, On The Nature of Daylight, but it is difficult to improve on such a well-loved piece. An orchestral arrangement, softened at the edges, lacks the raw emotional force of the original. On the other hand, Dinah Washington’s vocals to a version recorded for Scorsese’s Shutter Island highlight Richter’s crossover appeal. A worthy addition for newcomers and long-time Richter listeners alike.

Composer: Max Richter
Composition: The Blue Notebooks
Performer: Max Richter
Catalogue Number: DG 4835014 (2CD)

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