Ian Wilson and Kammerspiel - The Seven Last Words

Monday 1st December 1997
Ian Wilson and Kammerspiel - The Seven Last Words

STYLE: Classical
RATING 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9 9
LABEL: Timbre

Reviewed by John Irvine

Ian Wilson was the featured contemporary Christian composer in Cross Rhythms 20 (April/May 1994) and much has happened to him since then, with recordings of "Winter's Edge" and "I Sleep At Waking"- now widely available on CD. Ian is in constant demand for new compositions for classical musicians. This Kammerspiel CD is, however, the first album to be devoted to his music alone. "The Seven Last Words" is the major work of the disc being a single movement work, in sections, lasting around 30 minutes. It is based on the last words of Jesus on the cross as recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John. Wilson intends that the piece is experienced as a whole rather than as a collection of illuminations of the texts from the gospels. This is a journey both emotional and spiritual, a journey of suffering from the beginning to the end of Jesus' crucifixion. Taken in this context, the individuality of each section is far less important than the overall impression from first to last. The various sections flow together almost seamlessly, with only a recurring motif of heart-tugging, percussive, nail-hammering cords to remind us that this is a journey through the stages of pain endured in the process of dying. Wilson's music is mystical and traditional, devotional and disturbing, dynamic and dramatic, lyrical and sorrowful- all at once. There are an amazing range of emotions resonating through the complex interplay of piano, cello and violin. This is not a piece of music that can be properly appreciated after merely one or two listens: it repays careful study and meditation, and after approximately 20 listening sessions I still feel that there is much for me to discover in this work. It is certainly hard work to listen to, quite different from other examples of sacred choral or instrumental music being written today, as typified by Tavener, part and Gorecki. Musically, the piece is "difficult" and "challenging", and yet, like the music of James Macmillan, often very direct and accessible. It's a piece that you can't help being drawn into emotionally, and the Kammerspiel Trio give it their all in this first recording. The second piece on the album, "Catalan Tales", was inspired by a series of paintings by Catalan artist- Joan Miro, and seeks to musically express the sense of human experience suggested by each painting, no matter how bizarre, e.g., "The hope of the condemned man". The collection is rounded off by a composition for piano and cello. "The Six Days At Jericho", which, while almost the throwaway "filler" on the album, is actually a little gem in its own right, a processional which provides a fitting close to the album. This disc has been a long time in coming- nearly a year and a half- but the wait has been worth it. Powerful music- movingly performed.

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

Interested in reviewing music? Find out more here.

Be the first to comment on this article

We welcome your opinions but libellous and abusive comments are not allowed.

We are committed to protecting your privacy. By clicking 'Send comment' you consent to Cross Rhythms storing and processing your personal data. For more information about how we care for your data please see our privacy policy.