Factory Classical > Reviews of the 2nd wave of releases by Stuart Maconie
From NME 26 January 1991
(All Factory / All formats)
WHEN FACTORY's Classical division was launched 18 months ago, it was tempting to see it as yet another piece of ice cool bravado by the world's most stylish label, implying both northern cheek and intellectual superiority.
They've claimed that the intention is to introduce classical music to rock's young audiences which begs the question why, and why go about it with selections that are so idiosyncratic and rigidly anti-populist. But no matter. So far, Factory Classical's taste has been, as you might have imagined, exemplary.
The highlight of Fac Classical's first batch of releases for me was Rolf Hind's reading of Ligeti's piano etudes. On 'Country Music' the young pianist casts his net wide and effectively from the archly rustic Grainger dances to the flinty wastes of James MacMillan's piano sonata. You're of catholic taste if you can revel in both Janacek's limpid reflections and Finnisy's tightrope of extremities, but overall this is fascinating stuff. (8)
Similarly, vocal duo Red Byrd's collection wilfully mixes the haunting formality of 16th Century Italy with uncharacteristically lovely settings of poems by Led Zep's John Paul Jones! Unfortunately for Red Byrd, it's the use of modern guitar and bass that really catch the attention, particularly in the twisted, fractured textures of Frank Martin's'Trois Poems' (8).
Few Northside fans will be set alight by I Fagiolini's rendition of Monteverdi's secular works which is a pity, since its clean, elegant lines are infinitely preferable for chilling out to than Ambient House or that crap Enigma single. I wouldn't know a good Monteverdi from a Swans B-side but it sounds terrific to me. (7)
Satie's 'Trois Gymnopedies' are so well known to the general public that even a twerp like Gary Numan has given their timeless melodies a mauling. Rather less popular is his long cantata 'Socrates'. This wonderful piece, at the same time serene and passionate and whose fragrant modal tunes and mechanical rhymes predate Glass and Reich by the best part of a century, forms the centrepiece of this collection of Satie's vocal music. Terrific. (9)
If 'Socrate' is the first great find of this current batch, then the young Cornish composer Graham Fitkin is the second. 'Flak' is bursting with great ideas, enthralling moments and imagination. Fitkin is unafraid both of basslines that could come straight from Holland-Dozier-Holland and the pentatonic energy of modern jazzmen like Corea. (9).