Ryan Wigglesworth is making a name for himself as an accomplished conductor, composer and pianist. He is Composer in Residence with the English National Opera, for whom he is writing an opera for the 2017 season, and is Principal Guest Conductor of the Hallé orchestra, who feature on this recording. This album is the first full-length portrait of his compositions and demonstrates his prowess over a variety of mediums.

Wigglesworth’s Echo and Narcissus: A Dramatic Cantata, for which the album is named, is a setting of text from Ted Hughes’ Tales from Ovid that had its premiere at the Aldeburgh Festival in 2014. Wigglesworth on piano is joined by mezzo-soprano Pamela Helen Stephen, tenor Mark Padmore and two choruses of female voices. Stephen, augmented by chorus, is the narrator – her voice sumptuous and authoritative. The part of Echo is sung by a wistfully distant second chorus (heard mainly from offstage), while Padmore makes an anxious, keening Narcissus. The album opens with Augenlieder, a suite of four songs, settings of poems linked thematically by eye or gaze imagery, written for soprano Claire Booth. Wigglesworth conducts the Hallé, the orchestra a haunting underbelly to Booth’s limpid soprano.

Three orchestral works round out the album, beginning with A First Book of Inventions for chamber orchestra. Based on a series of seven ‘inventions’ inspired by continuous movement and one- or two-part writing, the work bubbles along with persistent energy. Wigglesworth’s Violin Concerto, revised since its 2012 premiere, is dark and passionate, the soloist Barnabás Kelemen bringing fire and agility to the performance. Locke’s Theatre was commissioned by Aldeburgh Music to mark the 100th anniversary of Benjamin Britten’s birth. The work alternates arrangements of movements from 17th-century English composer Matthew Locke’s incidental music to Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with Wigglesworth’s own more contemporary responses to the music.

The album presents as a collection of works without sustaining any overall narrative (though the works are more or less chronological), however Echo and Narcissus provides a broad portrait of Wigglesworth’s composition and his literature-steeped vocal works make for compelling listening.

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