Psappha, the North West’s only stand-alone professional contemporary classical music ensemble, celebrates its 30th anniversary with a new album of world-premiere recordings. Commissions features six works commissioned and first performed by Psappha over the last 12 years – and collectively, they show the breadth of the group’s repertoire, the scope of its ambition and the esteem in which it is held by just six of the hundreds of composers with whom it has worked since it was founded in 1991.
Mark-Anthony Turnage, Psappha’s Patron since 2018, contributes a major new work written for jazz singer Ian Shaw and a 16-strong ensemble – Black Milk, a potent and powerful setting of Paul Celan’s post-war poem ‘Todesfuge’ (‘Death Fugue’). John Casken, a longtime associate, is represented by Winter Reels, a three-movement work inspired by landscapes in winter and written for Psappha’s core group of six musicians (violin, cello, flute, clarinet, piano and percussion).
Commissions also features world-premiere recordings by four of the UK’s brightest young talents. Tom Coult, the BBC Philharmonic’s Composer in Association, contributes Two Games and a Nocturne – first playful, then sombre.
Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade’s Patdeep Studies, written for sitarist Jasdeep Singh Degun, is a fascinating exploration of the traditional Hindustānī rāg Patdeep. Tom Harrold describes his exhilarating Dark Dance as a ‘perverse viola concertino’, written for violist Heather Wallington. And George Stevenson takes his cues for the restless Trees Made of Air from a quote by theoretical physicist Richard Feynman. Purchasers also get access to a free download of a seventh Psappha commission: Songs of the World, a cycle by Alissa Firsova that sets words by Viennese poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
Commissions marks the departure of Psappha’s Founding Artistic Director Tim Williams, who is stepping back in March 2022 – but Tim will continue to perform with the group under new Artistic Director Benjamin Powell, as Psappha enters its fourth decade as committed to new music as ever.
Ian Shaw sings Black Milk
Psappha with Jamie Phillips