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Classical Music Review

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Vol II
Works for Orchestra


Composers: various
Conductors: Stanislav Vavřínek and Jiří Petrdlík
Performed by: Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra
Label: Navona Records
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 12 March 2021

Bows bend and sparks fly in this vibrant collection of pieces for string orchestra. Bound to please modernists and traditionalists alike, this eclectic collection contains pieces by Dave Dexter, William C. White, Simon Andrews, Rain Worthington, Allen Brings, John Carollo, John Franek, and Jeff Mangels. While the pool of inspiration might be diverse – ancient myths, dance, chaos, rites of passage, reflection and homesickness for a place which (may have) never existed – the pieces are united by their display of raw musical energy, an undercurrent of longing, as well as profundity in both technical and emotional terms...

The second in the Sparks series builds greatly on the first volume. All eight pieces (55 min, 15 sec) have their own inner light and emotive themes. I don't know who was responsible for choosing the track order, but they're a genius. We start with the beautiful and positive vibes of Dave Dexter's 'Hiraeth' and close with the moving, melancholic chore of Jeff Mangels's 'Reflection'.

Along the way we visit William C. White's 'Recollected Dances, Op. 41', which will put your head in a spin. His composition is mesmerising, memorable and truly engaging. Simon Andrews's 'Till Voices Wake Us' is eerie, ethereal and takes us on a magical journey to the edge of our reality.

Rain Worthington's 'Within Deep Currents for String Orchestra' reaches right inside your chest and rips out your heart. It's heartbreakingly beautiful and is guaranteed to bring a lump to your throat. Allen Brings's 'Introduction and Roundelay for Strings' is probably the most technically mechanical of the collection - a wonderful piece, but I didn't take much from it on an emotional level.

John A. Carollo's 'Seeds of Doubt' is a slow build, with the themes dancing around each other. John Franek's 'Torso for Four Violins and String Orchestra' is eerie, jarring and unnerving. There's a flavour of disorienting dreams.

While it's impossible to pick favourites, I have to admit I was really taken with 'Reflection', 'Hiraeth' and 'Within Deep Currents for String Orchestra'. But to be honest this works best when listened to from start to finish.

A sumptuous feast for the ears and the soul. If you don't break down into a gibbering mess at least once... you have no heart.

Track listing:

Dave Dexter
01 - Hiraeth (6:35)
Stanislav Vavřínek (conductor)

William C. White
02 - Recollected Dances, Op. 41 (5:06)
Jiří Petrdlík (conductor)

Simon Andrews
03 - Till Voices Wake Us (8:50)
Stanislav Vavřínek conductor

Rain Worthington
04 - Within Deep Currents for String Orchestra (6:25)
Stanislav Vavřínek (conductor)

Allen Brings
05 - Introduction and Roundelay for Strings (5:10)
Stanislav Vavřínek (conductor)

John A. Carollo
06 - Seeds of Doubt (6:23)
Stanislav Vavřínek (conductor)

John Franek
07 - Torso for Four Violins and String Orchestra (8:35)
Stanislav Vavřínek (conductor)
Pavel Doležel (solo violin), Jakub Černohorský (solo violin), Petr Benda (solo violin), Marek Blaha (solo violin)

Jeff Mangels
08 - Reflection (8:19)
Jiří Petrdlík (conductor)


Darren Rea