CD Reviews

“Philip Sawyers’s 3rd symphony (2015) is undoubtedly one of the finest British symphonies of recent years…music of searing intensity…The fifth song, ‘Futility’, serves to mark Sawyers’s stature as a composer: the same Owen sonnet as memorably set by Britten in the War Requiem, I aver that Sawyers’s is the profounder of the two. Finally comes the meaty Fanfare (2016) – really a motet for orchestral brass. Great music, great performances and great sound from Nimbus, engineered by Simon Fox-Gal.” Guy Rickards – Gramophone. (Nimbus Alliance NI 6353)

“Philip Sawyers’s Third Symphony is a major new work from a distinctive voice in British music…a work of impressive symphonic unity and drama.” Gavin Dixon – Classical CD reviews.

“I have no reservations in pronouncing this a very fine work indeed and one which deserves a place in any orchestra’s repertoire…Throughout the CD the utter commitment of the English Symphony Orchestra and String Orchestra and even more that of Kenneth Woods who obviously loves and admires this music is clear and in the song-cycle April Frederick gives not only a technically adroit performance but also a passionate one.” Gary Higginson – MusicWeb International

“The very impressive song cycle is beautifully sung by April Frederick. Sawyers’s longest symphony to date (3rd) is a work which teems with orchestral colour and musical events. The heart of the work lies in the 2nd movement Adagio…music of a Brucknerian intensity which is powerfully maintained. The disc is completed with a musical bonne bouche an extended fanfare which rather gleefully tips its hat to everything from Bliss great ceremonial fanfares to something akin to John Williams in Star Wars mode. The playing of the ESO is extremely adept from weighty string playing through solo winds of great sensitivity to brass of bite and power.” Nick Barnard – MusicWeb International

This record by Philip Sawyers (1951) is one of those recordings that we want to hear many times. Without a doubt, Sawyers’ Symphony No 3 is one of the greatest English symphonies written in recent years. Woods has managed to maintain the aesthetic tensions framed in diatonicism, atoalism and modality, with rigour and imaginative flexibility of the highest order.” Carme Miro – Sonograma (original in Catalan)

“All in all this is an excellent disc, powerful music presented in performances it is hard to imagine being easily surpassed. This is accessible in the best sense ? knotty but not opaque, challenging but compelling. When it is this good not a lot else matters.[/quote] Nick Barnard in MusicWeb International” 2nd Symphony, Cello Concerto, Concertante, NI6281

“Power, strength and expressive range are here a-plenty, and the continuous flow of the music is gripping. The performances are totally committed and the recording quality is really fine. This is the kind of music that gives one hope for the future of our art.” Robert Matthew-Walker in Classical Source, 2nd Symphony, Cello Concerto, Concertante, NI6281

“Sawyers is a composer of real quality. His music is always fascinating in its breadth of ideas as well as its execution as this disc so amply demonstrates.” Steve Arloff in MusicWeb International,?2nd Symphony, Cello Concerto, Concertante, NI6281

“The three works have an instant melodic appeal without in any way being populist. Added to this melodic gift the composer writes music that actually goes somewhere. I think we have something really special here.” John Whitmore in MusicWeb International, 2nd Symphony, Cello Concerto, Concertante, NI6281

“Three works of strong personality, genuine substance and warm-hearted integrity. Boasting admirable sound and judicious balance, this rewarding disc earns the strongest recommendation.” Andrew Achenbach in the Gramophone, 2nd Symphony, Cello Concerto, Concertante, NI6281

“There is nothing ugly, no tedium and it is not stop and start music but flows in a welcome coherence. There are not clich├ęs either and its language is somewhat original. (Cello Concerto) A colourful eventful piece…there is activity, life, melodic lines, drama and purpose. It is music that is rich, well developed and satisfying. (2nd Symphony)” David C F Wright in,2 Symphony, Cello Concerto, Concertante, NI6281

“….an effortless demonstration that the history of music can proceed in an unbroken line and the music of yesterday can accommodate the best products of today. There is much pleasure in observing with what freedom and resource Sawyers shows passing respect for 12-tone techniques. The CD reflects great credit on all the performers but most on the composer.” Robert Anderson,?2nd Symphony, Cello Concerto, Concertante, NI6281

“…these few works available on disc are sufficient to expel Sawyers as one of the truly great British composers.” Musik & Theater Magazine (Switzerland), Jan 2014, Violin Sonatas, NI6240, Steinberg Duo

“powerfully persuasive…beholden stylistically to no obvious external influence…” Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb-International, Jan 2014, Violin Sonatas, NI6240, Steinberg Duo

“…violin-writing that similarly reveals Sawyers’ gift for exploiting the full expressive and technical range of the violin… it is good to welcome two works to the repertory that deserve to be widely performed. One hopes that this Nimbus Alliance disc will do the trick.” Edward Greenfield, Gramophone Magazine, Dec 2013, Violin Sonatas, NI6240, Steinberg Duo

“…it is refreshing to hear some respectable, honest, down-to-earth serial music that delights in a subtle balance between dissonance and consonance, controlled structure and moments of sheer inspiration.” John France , MusicWeb-International, Nov 2013, Violin Sonatas, NI6240, Steinberg Duo

“For all its use of twelve tone writing, this work does not sound at all lacking in melody, let alone structural cohesion, showing just how fine and entrancing such a work can be.” Bruce Reader, The Classical Reviewer, Oct 2013 Violin Sonatas, NI6240, Steinberg Duo

“…music of instant appeal and enduring quality performed with zealous passion recorded in excellent sound. Well-worth investigating.” Nick Barnard, MusicWeb-International, Oct 2010, Orchestral Music, NI6129, Grand Rapids Symphony, David Lockington