One of Britain's most renowned and distinguished musicians and one of the most recorded artists in the world of concert and opera, John Shirley-Quirk (1931-2014) was known particularly for his masterly performances of orchestral repertoire. He performed with most of the leading conductors, including Abbado, Giulini, Solti, Rostropovich, Haitink, Previn, Osawa and major orchestras - Amsterdam, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, London, Paris, Philadelphia and Vienna. His discography encompasses well over one hundred recordings on every major international label. While his repertoire reached back into the classical and the baroque, he always had an active association with new music. His first operatic venture was in the first performance of Henze's Elegy for Young Lovers, but he later created roles in Tippett's The Ice Break and in all of Britten's last five operas, culminating in the virtuoso seven-fold role of The Traveller in Death in Venice, which was composed expressly for him. Operatic engagements include Royal Opera, Covent Garden, English Opera Group, Scottish Opera and all the leading European and American houses.
John Shirley-Quirk received numerous awards including Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Honorary Doctor of Music (Liverpool University), Doctor of the University (Brunel University), Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music and many Grammys. He was also a distinguished member of the voice faculty of the Peadbody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland.
The BBC Symphony Orchestra has played a central role at the heart of British musical life since its inception in 1930, and as the flagship orchestra of the BBC provides the backbone of the BBC Proms with at least a dozen concerts each year, including the First and Last Nights. Strongly committed to twentieth-century and contemporary music, it has given the premiere of more than 1,000 works by composers such as Bartók, Britten, Hindemith, Holst, Stravinsky and Shostakovich, and more recently has premiered BBC commissions by Simon Bainbridge, Jonathan Dove, Michael Nyman and Sir John Tavener among others. Its annual season of concerts as Associate Orchestra of the Barbican includes a weekend each January focusing upon a single composer from the twentieth or twenty-first century, most recently James MacMillan, Elliott Carter and Sofia Gubaidulina.
Jiří Bĕlohlávek took up the post of Chief Conductor in July 2006 and David Robertson was appointed Principal Guest Conductor in 2005. The BBC SO works frequently with Conductor Laureate Sir Andrew Davis and Artist-in-Association John Adams. All concerts are broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and a number are televised, giving the BBC Symphony Orchestra the highest broadcast profile of any orchestra in the UK. The BBC SO is committed to innovative education work, with ongoing projects including the BBC SO Family Orchestra and Music Intro, introducing families to concert-going.
The BBC SO has appeared on 34 of NMC’s CDs, including the best-selling recording of Elgar’s Third Symphony.
Elise Ross has long been acclaimed internationally for her interpretations of contemporary music. She began her professional career with Italian composer Luciano Berio, premiering his opera Passaggio in Rome, and touring his chamber music throughout Europe with the London Sinfonietta. She went on to collaborate with some of the most influential composers of the 20th century, including Olivier Messiaen, Witold Lutoslawski, Sylvano Bussotti and Pierre Boulez.
Elise Ross has appeared as soloist at most of the major European and American music festivals, including the Warsaw festival, the Holland festival, the Maggio Musicale in Florence, the Biennale in Venice, the Royan, La Rochelle and Avignon Festivals in France, as well as the Tanglewood Festival in Massachusetts, and the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, performing orchestral and chamber music repertoire from the 19th and 20th centuries. She is widely recognized for her interpretation of the role of Marie in Alban Berg's Wozzeck, which she performed for Scottish Opera in Glasgow, at the Edinburgh Festival, and for the Los Angeles Music Center Opera, in two separate productions by David Alden, also performing the Drei Bruchstucke concert suite which Berg extracted from that opera. She is known for her performance in the role of Anna in Kurt Weill's Die Sieben Todsunden, which she recorded for BBC television and for EMI under the direction of Sir Simon Rattle, and performed in Helsinki, Finland and Los Angeles under the direction of Essa-Pekka Salonen.
Among her other operatic roles are Cherubino in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, Prince Orlovsky in Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus, Melisande in Debussy's Pelleas et Melisande, and Marcello Panni's opera Hanjo, directed by Robert Wilson. She has performed her critically acclaimed production of Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire throughout Europe and the USA, a collaboration with composer Sylvano Bussotti, who also designed her costume for the work.
Elise Ross' recordings include Berio's Passaggio and Air, O King and El Mar la Mar, Sylvano Bussotti's La Passion selon Sade, and Kurt Weill's Die Sieben Todsunden.
Artistic Director: Amelia Freedman CBE FRAM
The Nash Ensemble has built up a remarkable reputation as one of Britain's finest chamber groups and, through the dedication of its founder and artistic director Amelia Freedman and the virtuosity of its players, has gained a similar reputation all over the world. The repertoire is vast and the imaginative, innovative and unusual programmes are as finely architectured as the beautiful Nash terraces in London from which the group takes its name. Not that the Nash Ensemble is classically restricted; it performs with equal sensitivity and musicality works from Mozart to the avant-garde, having given first performances of over 255 new works to date. These include 150 commissions especially written for the Group, providing a legacy for generations to come. An impressive collection of recordings illustrates the same varied and colourful combination of classical masterpieces, little-known neglected gems and important contemporary works.
The Nash makes many foreign tours: concerts have been given throughout Europe and the USA, and in South America, Australia and Japan. The group is a regular visitor to many British music festivals and can be heard on radio, television, at their renowned annual series at Wigmore Hall as well as at the Southbank Centre and the BBC Proms, and at music clubs throughout the country. The ensemble has won the Edinburgh Festival Critics' music award 'for general artistic excellence', and two Royal Philharmonic Society awards in the small ensemble category 'for the breadth of its taste and its immaculate performance of a wide range of music'.
- 01. Akhmatova Requiem: Requiem0'47"
- 02. Akhmatova Requiem: I Dedication12'43"
- 03. Akhmatova Requiem: II Introduction 3'36"
- 04. Akhmatova Requiem: III3'08"
- 05. Akhmatova Requiem: IV0'37"
- 06. Akhmatova Requiem: V1'18"
- 07. Akhmatova Requiem: VI2'01"
- 08. Akhmatova Requiem: VII3'33"
- 09. Akhmatova Requiem: VIII1'27"
- 10. Akhmatova Requiem: IX1'30"
- 11. Akhmatova Requiem: X The Sentence1'13"
- 12. Akhmatova Requiem: XI To Death2'34"
- 13. Akhmatova Requiem: XII1'39"
- 14. Akhmatova Requiem: XIII Crucifixion0'44"
- 15. Akhmatova Requiem: XIV 4'36"
- 16. Akhmatova Requiem: XV 1'04"
- 17. Akhmatova Requiem: XVI Epilogue2'15"
- 18. Akhmatova Requiem: XVII Epilogue II7'35"
- 19. Six Russian Folk Songs: O dark autumn night 3'37"
- 20. Six Russian Folk Songs: In the garden stands a pretty birch tree2'42"
- 21. Six Russian Folk Songs: Darling, let us walk by the banks of the Volga 2'00"
- 22. Six Russian Folk Songs: I've seen the great wide world1'17"
- 23. Six Russian Folk Songs: Pretty maid, why do you stare so longingly? 2'52"
- 24. Six Russian Folk Songs: Kalinka3'48"
Phyllis Bryn-Julson soprano
John Shirley-Quirk bass-baritone
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Gennady Rozhdestvensky conductor
Elise Ross soprano
The Nash Ensemble
Tavener's avant-garde style of the seventies contrasts with the contemplative beauty of his later works, for which he is best known, yet he spirituality and mysticism is still present. Akhmatova Requiem (1980) sets a sequence of poems written during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s by Anna Akhmatova, describing the terror of having her family and friends arrested and imprisoned, and the lines of relatives waiting hopelessly outside Leningrad jail. To her poems, Tavener added prayers from the Russian Orthodox funeral service which are sung on this recording by bass-baritone John Shirley-Quirk.
Six Russian Folk Songs (1978) represent, in the composer's words, 'a musical sigh of relief' and a complete contrast to the pain and sorrow of the Requiem; they were written for the Nash Ensemble's 15th anniversary in 1979. Simple settings of folk lyrics, their melodic nature recalls Tchaikovsky's songs.
This recording was previously issued by Carlton Classics in its BBC Radio Classics series.
GRAMOPHONE MAGAZINE EDITOR'S CHOICE (Re-issue/Archive)
'Tavener’s Akhmatova Requiem is a masterpiece' Gramophone
‘A masterpiece. The performance is outstanding. NMC deserves nothing but praise for making this remarkable music available again’ Gramophone
‘The Requiem grips from the start, with an incantatory passage for soprano behind which the low register instruments sidle and seep in foggy drifts of menace and desolation.’ BBC
‘The ever-versatile BBC Symphony Orchestra plays with finely controlled power throughout … The Folk Songs are full of stereotypically Russian melancholy, but vibrant performances lift the mood’ BBC
‘… it’s a stunning one which should be snapped up by Tavener enthusiasts or indeed by anyone wanting to explore original relationships between Modernist text and popular, conventional twentieth century music.’ Classical Net
‘The six songs, written for the Nash Ensemble, are gentle and charming. The contrast between these and the horrors of the Akhmatova Settings couldn’t be starker. Ms Ross sings with infectious enthusiasm.’ – American Record Guide
Produced in association with BBC Radio 3
This recording was previously issued by Carlton Classics in its BBC Radio Classics series.
The Akhmatova Requiem was recorded live on 27 August 1981 at the Royal Albert Hall, London; Six Russian Folk Songs were recorded live on 2 September 1979 at The Roundhouse, London. Both works were performed as part of the BBC Proms.
C B SAMUELSON Producer for BBC Radio 3
DAVID LEFEBER Remastering for NMC
COLIN MATTHEWS Executive Producer for NMC
FRANCOIS HALL Cover Image & Graphic design
COVER IMAGE Kazimir Malevich: Mystic Suprematism (red cross on black circle), 1920
Photo © Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam
(P) 1981 BBC
© 2014 NMC Recordings Ltd