CD Reviews 2000-2003
African Sunrise/Manhattan Rave
Michael Stewart -Gramophone December 2000
Dave Heath,like other composers who have a thorough background in both jazz and classical music has developed a voice and style that I, for one, would not consider 'crossover' but rather a style that has developed into a genre of its own.Heath never contrives to juxtapose elements of say rock,jazz,popular and classical,but simply composes using the natural armoury of techniques at his personal disposal.The result is music full of colour,incident and atmosphere.
African Sunrise/Manhattan Rave was the result of a commission to write a percussion concerto for Evelyn Glennie-a performer whose influences, like Heath's, are wide and varied.The work dates for 1995,but it is heard in this recording with an additional movement inserted between an 'Introduction' and the African Sunrise movement which is itself the 'light' section of a work entitled 'Darkness to Light' dating from 1997.
Stylistically,this section conjures up an atmosphere and texture reminiscent of Chick Corea and Gary Burton's Crystal Silence album,a debt that Heath openly acknowledges and elsewhere in African Sunrise particularly in the sections featuring Evelyn Glennie on Marimba and other phones,it is Corea's fluid style that often springs to mind.
Glennie's performance throughout the disc is, as we have come to expect form this artist not only of the highest calibre but also exhilarating and breathtaking particularly so in the Manhattan Rave section,where we are informed that for this recording Glennie improvised her part entirely,including a stunning trash solo[two sticks,two oil cans and an assortment of bottles and pans] that was recorded in one take with no overdubs.The cumulative effect of African Sunrise/Manhattan Rave is that of a journey-one could say from the plains and forests of Africa to the 'jungle' of modern city life.Stunning solos aside I was less taken with the Manhattan Rave section than with the African Sunrise section,though the contemplative closing bars of the work are memorably atmospheric and poignant.
Stylistically,'Dawn of a New Age' is close in atmosphere and mood to African Sunrise,and it indeed made a fine companion work on the disc.I winced a little at the Rave and Acid House elements that creep into the second movement,but on the whole the work succeeds in what it sets out to do,namely to signify the end of one era and the beginning of another.In addition to fine performances again from Glennie on percussion and Philip Smith on piano,we are treated to some beautiful rendered saxophone solos form John Harle.The recorded sound is throughout is exceptionally vivid and atmospheric on this rewarding and enjoyable disc.
BBC Music Magazine 2001 Nicholas Williams
Purveyors of some of the classiest sounds around Black Box music marks up a further notch with Evelyn Glennies debut recording for the label she appears with flautist and composer Dave Heath,with John Harle and with pianist Philip Smith on an album confirming Heath's reputation not only as a brilliant all rounder, now conducting the LPO, but also as a great mixer.Though it cannot be said that his subject matter is in any sense other than the ecological-African Sunrise/Manhattan Rave treads the well worn path from country to town-the music is as catchy and polished as ever.In his violin concerto 'Alone at the Frontier' Heath left much of the foreground material to be improvised by the soloist Nigel Kennedy. But in this later release ,artistic collaboration extends to the point where the bounds of Heaths creative input other than those of enabler seem blurred. After several hearings,aided by its well judged highlighting as a separate introductory track,Philip Smiths defiantly resonant solo in 'Darkness to Light'  lingered longest in the memory.Are the notes his,however,or in the composers or perhaps the property of both.
sound ***** performance*****
Michael Stewart-Music Week October 2000
Dave Heath:African Sunrise/Manhattan Rave:
Although Evelyn Glennie and John Harle need little introduction Dave Heath is better known for his attacks on music critics than for his compositions. Heath is himself a gifted flute player,and can craft rock and jazz pieces as well as contemporary classical scores.His musical language draws on a wide range of influences and crosses boundaries with ease and credibility.These works were written for and premiered by Glennie who boldly lives up to Heath's vision of an 'incredible talent and personality smashing hell out of the drums' Sampled orchestral sounds,electronics,industrial percussion assorted trash cans and marimbas create the sound world of African Sunrise/Manhattan Rave.A first rate recording,backed by a national radio advertising and extensive press campaign.
Sunday Herald - 16 March 2003 Heath blows hot and bold
Classical CDs Dave Heath - Sirocco (Black Box) **** Christopher Lambton
It is difficult to put Dave Heath in a pigeonhole. Anyone who remembers his performances with the BT Scottish Ensemble when he was composer-in-residence will know he's too big to be put in a box anyway. His flute would look like little more than a silver pencil in his arms as he towered over the rest of the ensemble, his gutsy playing accompanied by the slightly hangdog expression of someone who really doesn't expect a standing ovation.
His music is equally resistant to classification. It is miles away from cerebral modernity, but nor is it a clone of romanticism. He draws unashamedly on the vitality of traditional music, whether Celtic or Arabic, but he avoids any accusation of pastiche by subjecting his themes to brilliant twists and transformations.
There's also a strong theatrical element. The short piece Home From The Storm begins with the sound effect of a threatening wind, while urgent spoken voices usher in his requiem, The Beloved, written in memory of a boy who died in tragic circumstances. 'Did anyone see what happened? The little boy's dead!
It might all be dismissed as easy populism were it not for the skill of composition and the excellence of performance. The first piece on the disc is Sirocco, a concerto for violin and oboe intended as a companion piece to Bach's concerto for the same forces. Based on Arab rhythms and harmonies, it is played with wonderful enthusiasm by violinist Ittai Shapira and oboist John Anderson and the English Chamber Orchestra.
Shapira is also the soloist in The Celtic, a violin concerto written in 1994 for Clio Gould and the BTSE, who also have their own recording on the Linn label. Heath wears his heart on his sleeve and it is nowhere more obvious than in this vivacious tribute to the wild excitement of a traditional ceilidh.
The requiem was recorded in Edinburgh with the choir of St Mary's Cathedral and organist Matthew Owens. The little boy who died was a close friend of Heath's sons, and his sense of sadness is palpable in the fierce, desperate, and ultimately beautiful music he has written. Yes, it is full of emotion, but not remotely cheapened by it.
The Gramophone March 2003 BARRY WITHERTON
The Celtic was written in 1994 for Clio Gould and the BT Scottish Ensemble,who made a very fine recording of it for Linn.All of the other pieces except for Lochalsh,an impressive solo also written for Gould,receive their first recording here.
I share Heaths affection for the oboe,and particularly enjoyed his special arrangement for John Anderson of the bagpipe inspired fantasy The Sapphire.The slow opening section features a lilting melody,the fast section recalls The Dargason [used in Holsts St Paul's Suite] Anderson and the orchestra [bassoons,horn,and strings] play with sweet but dry eyed charm.
Sirocco was originally inspired by Bach's double concerto for the same instruments, Heath became preoccupied by the relationship between the soloists as much as and ensemble and by elements of Arabic music.Commendably, he resists the temptation to dress the music up in 'exotic' garb,instead integrating his influences seamlessly and preserving the essential character of his style.
The Beloved,a requiem for a five year old friend of Heath's sons who died in tragic circumstances, sets quotes from the boy as well as words written by the mother after her child's death.Heath turns on the emotion in a genuinely upsetting and intense elegy.The performers movingly convey the mixture of sorrow,bewilderment and anger at such a premature death.
The melody from Home from the storm,written in 1984,was especially orchestrated for William Bennett for this session.As Heath intended,it beautifully showcases Bennetts tone throughout the registers.
BBC Music Magazine April 2003 ROGER THOMAS ****
Dave Heath really is the best kind of iconoclast in that he never fails in compositional terms to put his money where his mouth is.For an example of his views,visit his web site [www.dave heath.co.uk] for his heartfelt diatribe against the twelve tone system.So are his alternatives plausible?In the main yes and he is very well equipped to follow his ideas through[so,incidentally was Cardew,but it didn't work out] ON this CD for instance,he takes a Celtic melody and cranks it up so that its structure takes on an entirely new life, its elements spinning like the mechanism of a supernatural clock; he deploys orchestral strings in apparently simple figures which strike a fine balance between continuation,development and resolution,and,almost in passing,writes with an uncanny lucidity for his soloists,who,along with the ECO under the composer, offer heartfelt and vigorous performances in return.
A very worthy successor, then, to his Evelyn Glennie collaboration African Sunrise/ Manhattan Rave [reviewed Jan 2000] and a further triumph for Black Box, which has an enviable handle on the musical spirit of the times
Heath--Sirocco-----Strad magazine----spring 2003---------------David Denton
Conceived as a companion piece for Bach's Concerto for violin and oboe.SIrocco takes its harmonic and rhythmic base from Arabic music, the intriguing interplay between the two solo instruments beginning in a whirlwind of activity.The central movement brings respite before returning to the hyperactivity of the opening music,the finale ending in peace.It is played with impeccable technical brilliance by Israeli violinist Ittai Shapira and John Anderson's beautifully smooth oboe playing is a constant joy.
Sirocco was completed almost seven years after the Celtic,a score inspired by the music Dave Heath heard when he first moved up to Scotland. It was written for Clio Gould and the BT Scottish ensemble and I find that groups recording on the Linn label more attuned to the Scottish folk element than Shapiras equally assured playing. He also revels in the technical demands of Lochalsh,a score for solo violin based on traditional Celtic music, the work having more than a passing affinity with Ravel's Tzigane.
The Requiem for the death of a five year old boy advances a very outgoing and modern way of expressing grief, popular music mixing with a sense of religious conviction.The sound throughout is excellent.
musicweb CD of the month April 2003---Rob Barnett
Dave Heath, born in Manchester, has been handsomely treated here with three substantial multi-movement orchestral works each of three movements. These are interspersed with three single movement pieces.
Sirocco proceeds furiously and peacefully. The furious sprint of some of the music is reminiscent of Bartok though Heath is not as thorny as late Bartok and he is more lyrical.Despite its declared roots it is not specially 'ethnic' in a North African sense. Heath instead successfully articulates the essentials of the Arabian experience - loneliness, the hint of the strange swaying caprice that Westerners associate with the region all meshed with a modern approximation of The Lark Ascending. The work is played by its dedicatee Ittai Shapira. Heath has essayed Celtic works before the Celtic Concerto was written for Cleo Gould in 1994. She premiered it with the BTScottish Ensemble. Shapira lays int this work with a will and the Ceilidh first movement has insistent spiritual echoes of Vaughan Williams' Violin Concerto and Holst's Double Violin Concerto. Just as with Sirocco the middle movement (Lament for Collessie) is the longest - about as long as the flanking movements put together. It speaks most movingly of Heath's sadness at leaving the township of Collessie in Fife, Scotland where he had made some very good friends. As the movement proceeds it becomes more and more like a contemplative caoine. The Cooper of Clapham finale is hoarsely busy - and folksy though not specially Scottish-again we are talking Holst in neo-classical vein as in theFugal Concerto or the Fugal Overture. By the way, Cooper is the British flute maker Albert Cooper - an obsessive perfectionist.
Home From the Storm derives from a melody Heath wrote in 1984 but orchestrated for these sessions. Its inspiration is one of Heath's heroes, the flautist William Bennett who plays the piece here. Rather as Rautavaara added sound effects (birdsong) to his Cantus Arcticus so Heath adds tapes of the sounds of rain and wind to add atmosphere. It makes for a meltingly lovely piece. You can think of it as a cousin to the lyrical sections of Philippe Sarde's score for Polanski'sTess and Richard Rodney Bennett's music for Far From the Madding Crowd and Lady Caroline Lamb.
The Sapphire is coloured by the sound of the bagpipes - more clamantly Caledonian than in the Celtic concerto - through John Anderson's oboe solo. The piece is sweetly good tempered and mellow. The title derives from the name of Heath's daughter, Naima Sapphire. Lochalsh was another work written for Clio Gould but here played by Ittai Shapira. It is a display piece which puts the soloist through most of the paces. There is a passing resemblance to the wild theme from Ravel's Tzigane. The composer refers to harmonies influenced by those of John Coltrane. Both Home From the Storm and The Sapphire would make for perfect competition pieces no doubt arranged 'down' for piano accompaniment.
The performance of Requiem recorded here is from a live concert on 25 August 2001. It is an extremely unconventional work with much of it spoken at first and no instrumental accompaniment. In fact the only instrument is the organ. It is a Requiem for Paul Medrington, a close friend of the Heath children, Liam and Calum, who died aged five in a tragic accident. The Requiem is earthy - reflecting not only the mother's loss but also her anger with those who she asked to watch him. The soprano voice is that of the mother; the treble that of Paul. This is an extremely moving work and I recommend it strongly. What it does it does with simple means rather than sophistication.
This disc would have been a natural for reviewer Neil Horner but I had a sneaking suspicion I would warm to this music. Thanks are due to the Scottish Arts Council who funded this recording. Let us hope that the SAC can also be relied on to support other revivals. Are the SAC even aware of Eric Chisholm's turbulent pair of 1930s symphonies (Chisholm did so much to place Scotland on the international cultural map during the 1920s and 1930s) and Hindustani piano concerto. They could also profitably turn their funding support towards Ronald Stevenson's music - commissioning from him the completionof the great Ben Dorain epic and recording the violin concerto and the cello concerto.
Perhaps more practical would be a similar CD of the orchestral works of Eddie McGuire such as Source,Calgacus and the utterly masterly Gaelic song cycle which I remember Anne Lorne Gillies singing with the BTScottish Ensemble in Stornoway at the Nicolson Institute in the late 1980s. Rewarding stuff in an accessible though not dumbed down way.