Jane Stanley: Cerulean Orbits. The Hermes Experiment. Red Note Ensemble. © 2024 Delphian Records


Anything but Indifferent?

KEITH BRAMICH listens to music by Jane Stanley

'... by turns beautiful, cheeky, dreamy, engaging, gentle, intimate, modern-sounding, poised, reflective, serious, spatial, swirling and thoughtful.'


The music of Australian-born (in 1976) Glasgow-based composer Jane Stanley is, to me, by turns beautiful, cheeky, dreamy, engaging, gentle, intimate, modern-sounding, poised, reflective, serious, spatial, swirling and thoughtful.

The Indifferent (2023) is possibly anything but what its name suggests! This song cycle for soprano, clarinet, harp and double bass - unusual instrumentation - feels folky, poised, simple and also somewhat pointillist. What really comes across in this performance by British group The Hermes Experiment is the music's beauty.

Listen — Jane Stanley: I (The Indifferent)
(DCD34281 track 1, 0:00-1:00) ℗ 2024 Delphian Records Ltd :

The movements have numbers but no names, but the advantage of this piece over all the others here is that it has words, by contemporary Australian poet Judith Bishop (born 1972), and the booklet contains not just Bishop's words, but also an 'emotional and linguistic score' which explains the setting, breaking Bishop's poem into five sections. The indifference here is basically that felt at the ending of love, and also refers to natural forces, such as endlessly moving waves in the sea. The music's beauty reinforces these feelings.

All the other pieces on this CD are purely instrumental and are played by members of Scotland's Red Note Ensemble. Both groups record regularly for Delphian Records and have a high profile on the British contemporary classical music scene. I can find no fault with any of the performances here.

Cerulean Orbits (2016), a nearly eight minute work for violin and piano, is expressive and swirling, with lots of violin trills. It seems to paint pictures of swirling clouds in the sky, gets angry and ends up feeling rather lonely.

Listen — Jane Stanley: Cerulean Orbits
(DCD34281 track 6, 3:32-4:24) ℗ 2024 Delphian Records Ltd :

Helix Reflection (2013) for flute and B flat clarinet feels more distant, making much use of portamento and the clashes between notes slightly out of tune from each other, plus vibrato and other effects. This is the earliest piece recorded here, and it does sound as if Stanley's style has changed somewhat since 2013.

Listen — Jane Stanley: Helix Reflection
(DCD34281 track 7, 0:00-0:54) ℗ 2024 Delphian Records Ltd :

The movements of the Suite for B flat clarinet, violin, cello and piano, written in 2014 and revised in 2023, are quite varied, as indicated by their names:

1: Density
2: Clarity
3: Drifting, cascading
3a: Interlude
4: Ostinato Study
5: Mechanical Birds
6: Floating, weightless
7: Restless, antagonistic
and 8: Effervescent, soothing

Listen — Jane Stanley: Floating, weightless
(Suite for B flat clarinet, violin, cello and piano)
(DCD34281 track 14, 0:25-1:04) ℗ 2024 Delphian Records Ltd :

Finally Oneiroi, from 2023, beginning and ending quietly with very gentle percussive sounds, and again with very expressive movement names, is possibly the most orchestral-sounding of the pieces here, making use of all six members of Red Note Ensemble.

Listen — Jane Stanley: trembling (Oneiroi)
(DCD34281 track 19, 0:00-0:45) ℗ 2024 Delphian Records Ltd :

I believe that Jane Stanley has an important, distinctive voice on the contemporary classical music scene. This new album - the first containing only music by her - is due for release next month, on 26 July 2024, and is well worth exploring.

Copyright © 22 June 2024 Keith Bramich,
London, UK



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