The Nash Ensemble, Martyn Brabbins (conductor)
Robin Holloway's early musical training took place as a chorister at St Paul's Cathedral in London. He is now a lecturer at Cambridge University, where he has been since 1975. His compositions are increasingly respected and recorded, and a disc of his Second and Third Concertos for Orchestra won the 1994 Gramophone Award for Contemporary Record of the Year.
Two distinct strands inform his compositional style: there is an inevitably 'modernist' stance, but this is complemented by the fruits of his study of language, style and quotation. This latter is represented here by the Fantasy-Pieces on the Heine 'Liederkreis' of Schumann. In many ways a 'sequel' to the Scenes from Schumann of 1970, the Fantasy has five instrumental movements which explore extensions, descants, reharmonizations, rhythmic shifts and the like on Schumann's original work. It also includes, after the Prelude, a 'straight' performance of Liederkreis. All in all, a fascinating juxtaposition of Romanticism and modernist tonality.
The Serenade in C, for the same instrumentation as the Schubert Octet, was commissioned by The Nash Ensemble in 1978 and completed the following year. Again the work is 'derivative' and highly original at once, Holloway giving, in his own words, 'an affectionate twist to tonal common practice and light-music clichés all the way from Biedermeier Vienna to Southend Pier'.