Noted as a "maximalist" for his densely textured, intricately constructed serial works, Brian Ferneyhough is a challenging composer by any standard, and his uncompromising and intensely demanding scores are some of the most original of the late avant-garde. In such complicated chamber works as Funérailles I (1969-1977) and Funérailles II (1969-1980), both versions for seven strings and harp, Ferneyhough presents thickets of notes and short gestures that are tightly organized, but so abrupt and pointillistic that the lay listener may mistake them as random fragments, not at all as recurring ideas. Similarly, in the rhythmically layered Bone Alphabet for percussion (1991) and the angular Unsichtbare Farben (Invisible Colors) for solo violin (1999), the ear can only take in the surfaces of the music, having no way to grasp the underlying patterns that are employed. Yet it would be a mistake to think these pieces are just cerebral exercises, since Ferneyhough is too good a composer to pass off intellectual doodles as serious work.
It's been something like a year now that I've been listening to SHADOWTIME. Though the lyrics are virtually incomprehensible, and though, like most avant "operas" it is wildly over-ambitious, I find that it works on multiple levels, including low comedy, and I really enjoy listening to it. It seems to me that operas in general, whether avant or traditional, lose something essential when captured in audio only. Hence, of course, the trend toward placing …..Autonomeus @ Amazon.com